CHOOSE LIFE

WHERE PERSONAL GROWTH MEETS THE STRESSFUL REALITY OF MODERN LIFE

By Paul Johnson
chipmunkapublishing the mental health publisher

All rights reserved, no part of this publication may be reproduced by any means, electronic, mechanical photocopying, documentary, film or in any other format without prior written permission of the publisher. Published by Chipmunkapublishing PO Box 6872 Brentwood Essex CM13 1ZT United Kingdom http://www.chipmunkapublishing.com Copyright © Paul Johnson 2009 ISBN 978-1-84991-002-6

Chipmunkapublishing gratefully acknowledge the support of Arts Council England.

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This book is dedicated to my wife Tara, without whom I would be utterly lost. You are truly the missing part of me.

And to our astonishing and beautiful children, who have shown me just how much this life has to offer.

My grateful appreciation is expressed to the following people who have helped me along the way:

Geoff Thompson, for years of inspiration from afar, and more recently for your personal guidance, advice and encouragement. You have given me far more than you could realise.

My thanks are also due to Neil & Keith Freeman and the lads at Waltheof;my Mum and Dad; Paul, Travis and the boys at Daisho Dojo, and last (but not least) the good inhabitants of the of the forum at www.bohemiancafe.co.uk

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“The first step is simply that of self-honesty” 4 .

To Bare One’s Soul Starting to Understand 4. Preface ii. An Equal Footing Steering the Rapids 9. Taking Back Control 5 .Contents i. Whose Responsibility Is It Anyway? 6. Introduction Without a Paddle 1. The Main Cause Of Anxiety 5. The Cop-out 7. The Hardest Fight Of All 3. Signed Off Work 2. The ‘Proper’ Flow Of Things 8.

Achilles Heel Spreading Wings 13. Spirituality 15. ‘That’ Moment 12. Accepting Success 19. Higher Or Lower? Learning to Fly 17. Goal Setting 16. What Does Success Look Like? 18. The Martial Arts 14. Choose Life 6 . Religion vs. Shadow Warriors 11.10.

in what we laughingly refer to as the ‘real world’… 7 . and who finds real problems dealing with stress and anxiety along the way.we must do all that is possible to survive. All of this is based on modern 21st Century living . Not halfway up a mountain in Japan. It isn’t packed full of techniques clinically proven to reduce your stress levels. to the limited options and lack of quality that often appear to be our ‘lot’. I In modern times. that this can’t possibly be all that there is. withgrowing dependencies on drink and drugs. It argues that much of our frustration is due. and our growing awareness that there must be more to life.i. but right here and now. It brings together this domestic lifestyle with a few thoughts and principles from some of the Eastern philosophies. Instead our expectations must go beyond the day-to-day drudgery. and often drained of energy. and finds that these two worlds are not separate and distinct from one another after all. But what can we do? First things first . is to examine how much control we have. a man who faces the trials and tribulations of modern living. increasing violence. but this has come from the desperate need to discover how we are to cope now. stress related illness and disease. eating and just getting through another week.a hectic family life with a focus predominantly on domestic issues rather than spiritual ones.this is not a ‘how-to’ book. real wisdom might indeed lie somewhere between the two. or even need. sitting crosslegged and contemplating the universe. let alone cope. A sound philosophy to adopt for life was described to me some years ago as . We all accept stress as being part and parcel of modern day living – that constant rush of being always busy. uncovering one or two universal truths along the way. What it does do. and it doesn’t explain how to achieve personal enlightenment in ten easy steps. frequently run down. An unlikely direction? Perhaps. then our purpose in life has to be more than our base instincts of sleeping. or how to reach a higher state of consciousness in thirty days. If we are to get beyond this point. in fact. not to mention mental health issues. There is also the impact of stress on society round us. On occasions we find ourselves short of the ability to think. in our busy and often stressful lives. Preface The following pages chart the progress of an ordinary man’s journey. road rage. The journey charted across these pages shows how to find our own clear path through life. however. in order to experience everything that life has to offer.

when the day to day crap falls away and you really connect. home. but generally accept that ‘we are what we are’. Having fallen apart. Paul Johnson 8 . I was fortunate to stumble upon some simple but earth-shattering truths. this is what life is all about. of some slight grief. but unable to find a context for this feeling. until the next time that we are able to accidentally find ourselves in the right frame of mind to see things as they really are. hobbies and interests. I have found myself left with a vague feeling of loss. believing that this was indeed a path towards real happiness and fulfilment. and say to yourself – ah. This has become my motivation – why can’t we have more of this? Why should we only experience a few moments like this each year? Why can’t we access this every day. As I began to realise the significance of what I had found. and the pressures kick in once more. That moment where you feel both joy and peace. If we were to sink even a fraction of our time and energy into discovering what really brings us happiness. then I will know this whole endeavour has been worthwhile.to share this experience with others. and if just a handful of people can be helped up by learning from some of my mistakes. it doesn’t get any better than this. more than anything else in this life? We put huge efforts into juggling work. It could be standing on a beach looking out to sea. or know what to do about it. Some sort of knowing that things should be better than this. the moment passes. It could be a moment shared with your partner.So what exactly is it that we’re aiming for here? Well. which enabled me to rethink and rebuild my life. It doesn’t get totally lost. one genuine treasure we can share. but instead is forgotten. Surely this is worth striving for. and truly appreciate the wonders that are in front of us. But before long. the rush of day to day life catches up. that are in fact all around us? WHY? If there is one gift that we can give to each other. then this could be a turning point for each of us. and one that is worth more than any material object – this really is it. I felt a drive-an obligation almost. To share this in order to help others lift their lives without having to go through quite the same pain. or reading a book with one of them. you know the moments of clarity that you get from time to time – it could be playing with your kids. truly a life changing experience.

I’m sure you will have heard much of the same advice. o you need to drink less. we usually miss the moment. You might as well tell me to pull myself together. There are endless techniques out there. friends or wherever. how to avoid being stressed. o you need to take some time out for yourself. when the brown stuff hits the fan. tools and coping strategies in the world are of little use if we can’t make them work when it comes to crunch-time. is that no one seems able to explain how to put it into practice. o you need to drink more (!) I have to say that all of this was well meant. this is your life. o you just need to relax. and miss the opportunity to turn 9 .ii. Introduction I’ve lost count of the pieces of good advice I’ve heard over the years: how to have a happy life. however. o no-one lies on their death bed wishing they had spent more time at work. to just get on with it. Here are a few of the most common ones: o this is not a rehearsal. Well intentioned (but often misguided) friends will fail to understand just how impractical their ‘simple’ advice can often be when you’re up against it. how to manage your time better…and so on. As a result. I mean where’s your backbone young man??? All the techniques. and the temptation is to collect lots of different tactics and strategies from books. o the graveyards are full of people who thought they were indispensable. However. we don’t know which of our dozens of techniques will best fit that particular situation. and some of it was even sound advice (especially the bit about drinking…) The trouble with good advice.

things around. In writing this book. Answers on a post card? Not quite. Also. 10 . How could I? Wiser men than myself have known these truths (and many others) for centuries an original idea is a rare thing indeed! Instead. I’m all for trying new ideas and strategies. but something here is failing us. struggling to keep our heads above water and desperately looking for a lifeline. at times literally not knowing which way is up. and have been. I claim no ownership whatsoever of the original ideas and concepts within. translated into real life. One of the problems with stress is that the truth is different for all of us. Worse still. somewhere there should be more than this for each and every one of us… My life. A life lived alongside the feeling that somehow. we generally have little idea of how our new-found techniques will hold up under the pressure of real life. it’s failing when we’re already out of our depth. A life of struggling through the realities of modern living. A life of picking an often painful path through the maze of stress and anxiety. rather than looking for a perfect strategy in the usual ‘one size fits all’ approach. we need to find out how to help ourselves and discover what it is that works for each of us as individuals. this is a story of how the ideas and inspirations of others can. So.

WITHOUT A PADDLE 11 .

but it would be fair to say that things came to a head recently when I found myself in unknown territory. Signed Off Work It’s difficult to pin point exactly when this all started. We all start showing cracks under the strain at times. tells you that’s ok. and each time a part of me would always be genuinely sympathetic to their situation. really. Not good. and I’m drinking a fair amount nowadays. I repeat nobody. I was signed off work with stress…. And let’s not forget that this is their health. that in fact I might be weaker than I ever realised? I’ve always thought I was better than this . their well-being that we’re talking about here.sure. Sometimes even depression. Much stronger. Worse. But signed off work? I thought I was stronger than that. For me.1. signed off work? This is bad. most nights of the week if I’m honest. but now even this ‘strategy’ is failing to help. I mean really bad. I was in free fall. but I got through that alright. shouting at the kids and snapping at my wife. but we got through in the end. Totally lost. if only for a few hours before bed. friends. anxiety? Shaking inside without knowing why? Not coping with normal life? My god… what is going on here? There was (and sometimes still is) a feeling of inadequacy that seems to goes hand in hand with this. not unusual. that’s ok. I would be thinking that these people are obviously going through a difficult patch.it’sdefinitely not coffee table conversation. I’ve probably been depressed at times in my life when some of the real shit has happened. and nobody. loved ones. ashamed even to admit to that I might have a problem. I’m not an uncaring person. Clearly this is more 12 . and no doubt there is an impact on those around them – family.signed off with stress or anxiety. Even so. I’m uncomfortable. and hey. Oh. didn’t I? OK. I’m feeling guilty about the drinking and it isn’t helping.I mean. But this? We seem to be into the realms of mental health issues here. We all work through some degree of stress . I remember seeing stuff like this happen to other people . with this being the first time anything like this had ever happened to me. Come to think of it. It used to lift things. My feelings at the time? Blown away.I wouldn’t dream of uttering those words out loud to the mirror. nobody mentions it at all. Unable to cope with the simplest of things. Devastated. and in fact is distinctly taboo for most of us. Signed off with stress? Me? OK. so maybe I was drinking too much. Do I really have to accept that perhaps the truth doesn’t match up. so maybe I had been feeling a bit strung out recently. let alone to someone else.

I mean. that would be a step forward. right? Oh yeah. go I. an indelible judgement of weakness against my name. I keep looking at the sick-note. something about not judging a man until you’d walked a mile in his moccasins…? Well. That would be positive. and if it takes a bit of time to sort things.to be honest most of us are thinking ‘there but for the grace of God. how am I going to be judged? Besides. eh? Trouble is. then that’s fine. We’re all supportive around this . work/life balance. we’ll cover things at this end. wishing the doctor had written anything other than that dreadful word ‘STRESS’. and no doubt other people will have those same damning thoughts about me. At the same time however. Worse still. And I am very uncomfortable with this. how on earth can I even think about managing the pressures at work? But the sick-note does say ‘STRESS’.what am I going to say when I go back to work? How I am going to explain? Actually… I don’t want to go back. A black mark on my record. but then they ask for references. Now it’s me that’s worried about the idea of returning to work. I don’t want to explain. don’t give it a second thought. 13 . So go on. Hang on a minute. On how many occasions. not able to hack it. that’s one option. but it still hasn’t changed. Now it’s all official: I am incapable of coping. and go do whatever it is that you have to do. What was it the Native Americans said. Take the time that you need. without also worrying about what it might mean for the future. I keep looking at it and checking. not up to coping with a little bit of pressure. all that sort of thing. It’s obvious that this is a big issue in the scheme of things. I must have gone back to it six or seven times by now. now it’s me that feels uncomfortable about ringing the boss to explain. Work can wait. what if I went for another job . so don’t worry about it. I’m the one with the sick-note this time. My god. maybe one with a bit less pressure. it will go on my record. and then there’s nothing that I can do about it. I keep thinking . How many days off sick in the last 12 months. another part of me would be dismissing them as being weak. get things sorted.. It’s hard enough trying to handle what’s going on right now. if I can’t cope with the smallest of things at home. right? Find another job.important than work.’ We all understand where this fits in terms of priorities. as soon as I send the sick-note in. And why. Very poor show.

I knew. la la la. At the same time. however crazy. It seems comical now. if there was ever a point where I have wondered if I was really and truly losing the plot.a tried and tested technique that has been used by generations of kids. but trust me. Out of control… we’re heading straight for the edge of the cliff here. Whilst all of this was going on. One that’s seen many of us through an impossible situation at some point in our lives. I can’t hear you. Especially not the future. It’s all mixed up. let alone think my way through things.bent over in the kitchen and can’t move? It’s pathetic. because it isn’t. la la la…. la. and get your life back before it’s too late”. No figure of speech here .it didn’t exist.there aren’t any patterns to it. I’m at home in the kitchen. You can’t accept this as being ok. I can’t do anything. This is not how things are meant to be. this is exactly what I was doing inside my head. Only one thing for it . I can’t hear you. But I can’t act. I had to act quickly to have any chance of stopping the downward spiral. you have to take control. and this was the only thing that came to mind. maybe hour by hour. Things are bad enough right now as it is. A jumble of chaos and worry. if I was going to survive. This was one of the worst moments of my life. and I had to get through by any means possible. then this was it. Right now I can’t even get my head off the work surface and stand up straight. I can’t think properly. This is all going wrong. you shouldn’t be like this. forget about tomorrow come to that . Can’t stop thinking though. la la la.I mean really losing my grip on this world. there was also a voice inside my head saying “this is all wrong. more and more each minute. bent over with my head on the work surface (feels nice and cool). look at you . I could actually feel it slipping away. doesn’t make any sense . I knew that all that I could do was try to get through minute by minute. You shouldn’t have to be like this. My world is quite literally spinning around me.Shit… I’m not in a fit state to think about this. Straight up. That’s the one – fingers in ears. la… 14 . so I’ve got to do something. and yet I can’t stop thinking. At that moment there was only ‘now’. absolutely knew. Forget about long term worries or consequences. La. horribly wrong.. Fast. that this was beyond my capability. all of it stacking up. piece by shattered piece.

It occupies my hands. but at least I’m managing to keep everything at bay for a few hours. Just about. we have the conversation. Ha. Who’s to know? This feels good at times.I’ve always worked full time. Well I’m at home right now. and she doesn’t know the half of it! Difficult to see how she could when I haven’t told her the whole story… but anyhow. She is doing her absolute best here. Explain a little of what’s happened (not too much of course. All the making of a gorgeous summer. If someone rings and I answer the phone. no matter what. Feel things spiralling? No problem. so no problem with me being at home. It’s late July. she tells me to stay off as long as I need. and ever since we had the kids there’s been a pull to be around more. cartoon style. and decided to settle for that. but holding it together. but I know that I’m just hiding. lots more that never got finished. lets drill. better than sitting and thinking. I was alive anyway. Gives me something to focus on – better to be busy after all. as I’ve always been the logical one. give me some breathing space. to pretend that the thought hasn’t even occurred to me. I’m pretty relieved to hear she’s more concerned about the state I’m in than anything else. as she will occupy the kids for a while. Let me fall apart and then get my head back together without effecting them too much. talk to the boss. but keeps looking at me. I know I’m kidding myself perhaps. Not quite in one piece. But not just yet. So I stay at home. the one that thinks with reason rather than emotion.So I managed to get through the day. the one that’s always solid. desperately trying to figure out 15 . or take them out for an hour. This whole thing is especially difficult for her. and the start of the school holidays. her rock in the storm that she can depend on. I’m just having some time off. I’ve been saying for months that I’ll take lots of annual leave over the summer. but deep down I know that it has. I choose not to think about this. And now I’ve shattered into a million pieces. saw and hammer away. Some of the time it’s good to be at home . I keep myself busy though. and do so in a fairly matter of fact way. and I have one less mountain to face. The next morning I make the dreaded phone call into work. Well. Deep down I also know that I have to face this. But at other times I slip back into the spiral. These are terrible times. lots of DIY stuff that never got started. the kids are full of laughter and the weather’s beautiful. my mind and my time. I’ve still got my dignity to hang onto). I’m lucky to have my wife around.

It’s better somehow to be rock bottom than to be in freefall – at least I know where I am. but I do. To set the scene: some time ago I had been encouraged by a friend to write an article for his website. I slowly begin to realise that these bouts of falling apart aren’t getting any worse. with the realisation that in fact each bout of spiralling does end. I will not accept defeat. for a part of me that seems to have died. and not for the better. and that it can’t get any worse. I honestly can’t see my situation getting much better. To be honest it’s enough that the downward spiral has stopped. some sort of false version of reality. The trouble is that it’s not just my wife who has been used to relying on my strength – I have too. able to deal with it all. (NOTE: this sentence doesn’t really seem necessary). I find some twisted comfort in this. a sort of grieving. but it definitely ain’t funny. martial arts. Only now I have. I can see a way through it. being back at work. To imagine ever being solid again. to see some sort of pattern. but I also know this is necessary if I am to survive. In fact they seem to have levelled off. one that makes it bearable. It could have been about anything – life. Not sure if that’s improvement. fit and well. Not sure how I know this. Something has changed forever. Deep down I know that I’ve got myself wrapped up in some sort of cocoon. I will not stop. perhaps. I’m starting to understand what to expect in a day. it’s becoming do-able for the first time. philosophy. For years I’ve known that whatever happens and no matter how bad things might get (and they have at times).what’s going on. I decided to give it a bash. and that makes all the difference in the world. Ok. She can’t understand how it is that her solid. However uncomfortable it might be at the time. not in the near future anyway. but despite not knowing how long things are going to be this way. however. ever give in. After a week or two pass in this dreadful place of limbo. I feel a sense of loss. and can now see that I have been through the worst and survived. Now I’ve collapsed. but I am beginning to get a handle on this. so this wouldn’t exactly be my first choice of lifestyle. reliable rock has fallen apart. Fortunately. fate decided to play a hand. and to my surprise found that I had something to say. This quickly developed into an article which 16 . This is one of those unlikely events that just happened to work out at the right time. and I will never. It might be cartoon style. and it’s hard to see how I will ever be strong again after falling so very far.

and he reads the email out. up and down. A year or so later. but unable to access my email (because I’m not at work. printed it out and reread it. I ignored the feeling. Wow! But hold on a minute. I could see the potential that seemed to be hovering in front of me. he would quite like it to go onto the articles page of his website. that it would make the grade. ring a mate at work and ask him to check my emails. I know. Naturally enough I forgot all about this when my life came crashing down around me a couple of days later. thinking it was a job well done. I play the game of trying to ignore it. Something hinted at this being the beginnings of something greater. didn’t forsee anymore writing for me. who was I to kid? Mind made up.after all. a forgotten file on a computer. it goes on to say that if I don’t mind. Getting the feeling that maybe it wasn’t a bad piece of work. and. and having sharpened it up a bit. I emailed it to my friend. Something in my heart told me that it was good enough. and for a few minutes I dared to believe in myself. I rewrote it. Two days before I crashed and burned. Up and down. and instead of being put up on the website for the world to see. Somehow the article got overlooked. ridiculing me for having the nerve to have such flights of fancy.linked some basic oriental philosophy into the realities of modern living. full of confidence on an exhausted high. well written even. saying – ‘bit of a cheek. I had a feeling something might have happened. started to think that it might even be good enough to be published somewhere. Surely I was just being stupid . But deep down. the quiet voice persisted. My fears and anxieties were quick to interrupt and to drown this voice out. But it keeping on returning. I suddenly remembered about the article. Time stands still… I’m standing outside on the driveway because I’ve hardly got a signal on my mobile. It says that my article is quite good. Finally I give in. I sent it from my work email with a note attached. He rings back a few minutes later to say yes.) I can’t figure out what to do. to go on display for other people to read. there is a reply from this guy. whilst it continues to persist. I was at work. It was hardly significant in the scheme of things. I emailed my article off to a guy whose writing I had been following for some years. it sat unused. Or so you would have thought… Fast forwarding to the end of my second week on the sick. but sent it off anyway. at perhaps even finding my true vocation. Quickly. that I might have had a reply from this guy.. and before doubt could take a hold. 17 . I remembered. but would you mind taking a look at this and see what you think?’ I wasn’t entirely sure that I would get a reply.

From there however. it hardly got me back on my feet again. I have to say though. if not years. anything would become possible.If I don’t mind?! If I don’t bloody well mind! Are you taking the mickey here. This was an injection of inspiration and energy that I needed like a man in the desert needs a drink of water. Still. There was no quick or easy fix . I had been flat on my back for two weeks. this first gift was by far the most important-the thing that helped me to find my way again through the fog of stress and depression. that as fantastic as this was. but to get the result right then. This would have been great at any point. of course I don’t mind! Woo-hoo! For me this was a fantastic moment. I’m smiling now as I sit here writing these words. when I was stuck at rock bottom with absolutely no idea how I was going to get back up – to get it then was just out of this world.I knew I was too far gone for that. It was absolutely lifesaving. although neither of us could have known this at the time. but this was so positive and so uplifting. I was still weak and exhausted. And for that I am eternally grateful. still wobbly from one moment to the next. something that you couldn’t have dreamt up. Receiving this good news did give me a massive lift. but it would be much more accurate to say that it got me up onto my knees rather than raising me to the skies. It was one of those things that just ‘happened’ at the right time. It gave me a boost when I needed it most. 18 . Mentally. remembering just how good it felt. I needed it. It turned out later that this same guy would provide more help and inspiration further along. and believe me. following a build up of months.

The nice family scene is quickly replaced by an air of thick tension and uneasiness. ready for us all to enjoy some time together. And as your own stress levels build up. We often hurt the ones we love. It takes a special kind of stupid to destroy this so quickly and effortlessly. Of course what tends to happen is that my tolerance levels are pretty low after a hectic day at work. as my own reflections have shamefully brought me to realise. but you can’t see it. and then I’m off to work again. Raised voices. If I’m late home. but ready to see my family catch up with them. You continue to project blame and responsibility anywhere other than at your own feet. Way. Of course. are also busy coping with their own pressures. After five or ten minutes at home. Snappity. the lights are too bright or the TV too loud. but now it’s in the heavyweight league. it can seem like I barely see them before the next day comes around. with the mad rush of the morning. maybe the dog is whining to go out. The Hardest Fight Of All It is all too easy to take out our frustrations on those we are closest to. you drop the close communication that you used to take for 19 . at the time you can’t see that any of this is your own fault.for gods sake why is it so difficult for them to understand?! Of course. way too easy. It sometimes feels like I’m a part-time parent (with plenty of guilt attached) so when I’m coming home. and my “honourable” intentions vanish without trace. a bit frazzled from the day. as countless songs have testified to over the years. Your ‘truth’ may be warped beyond recognition. I look forward to it. They. Chances are they don’t deserve any of this. Usually arrive home from work. Those who aren’t able to defend themselves will often bear the brunt of this. then it takes on a different meaning. Anything. in reality it is difficult. get a bit of decent time with the kids before all too soon they’re off to bed. This is true enough if you’re carrying a little stress. It’s also easy to project blame onto your partner. but when it’s getting out of hand and those feelings have turned into a real millstone around your neck. but to you all is clear and straightforward. snap. especially given the fact that all three kids and my wife were actually pleased to see me when I walked through the door. I cut them off in their tracks. Not good.2. It’s always someone else isn’t it? Often it’s the kids and their noise. and you can’t see why others don’t follow your logic. the noise already tends to get the better of me. too.

and despite these ‘best’ endeavours. all-in-all it’s kind of ok. You must have this understanding if you are ever going to move on and grow. How is this impacting on those around you? There is something inside us all. And worst of all? You fail to see the terrible impact you have on those around you. how on earth can they understand or help? I know this sounds a bit like “stating the bleeding obvious” (I do have a diploma in this). No-one’s perfect you know. That it isn’t all that bad. It doesn’t matter where. by the way you’re behaving or the way you’re talking? Not to mention the destructive way that you’re often thinking.granted. You soldier on. No-one else can hear your thoughts. Sounds easy? Sure. is it? Ask yourself this now: exactly what impact are you really having on those around you. If you don’t have self-honesty at this point. because it will only try to protect you from the truth and in doing so will stop you from being totally honest with yourself. You need to know the whole truth. this is where the healing starts. could be in the car. then you have nothing at all. which invariably tries to tell us that everything is ok.. Let’s be honest here. you’re doing the best you can under the circumstances. is it? If you don’t talk to your other half. Be honest with yourself. the chances are that you haven’t told them. still manage to cause pset and chaos on a daily basis. you cannot see what is going on in front of your nose. Understanding this is absolutely vital. reasons or excuses. it’s not rocket science. put it to one side. or. but when you’re in the state that I was in. the toilet or 20 . put the book down and find somewhere you won’t be disturbed. well it always does when you’re just reading a line in a book.. and any supposed progress or future development will be built on very unstable foundations. and take just one minute out of your life to think this through. but right now you are going to have to park it. All you have to do is be honest about how you’re affecting those closest to you. Recognise that part of you? Well sometimes this instinct for self preservation is invaluable. believe me. Without self-honesty your journey will end right here. at the end of this paragraph. So.it’s not like anyone is asking you to make an announcement on TV. Put the book down right now. and understand the full impact you are making on those that are close to you. and however un-dramatic it might appear – this is the turning point that you’re desperate for. after all you’re only human. This really is the crux of the matter. doing your best. But this needs to be something more – so let’s stop for a moment. to put it another way. However unlikely it might seem. irrespective of context.

not travel. building a career or bringing in a few extra quid. Sure. and when you’re ready to quit. not work. Just stop and weigh this up for yourself. asking: what impact are you really having? I’ll say it again. turn your mobile phone off and think it through. and hits hardest when you are low and vulnerable. because this isn’t some flash of heroic action. Never mind the risk of losing face amongst friends or enemies. You ask any elderly person what is important in life. because we need to understand just how important this is. the battle seems to start in earnest when you are at your lowest. but you must be straight with yourself. despite all of that . It takes real strength to fight this.we all say we would die for our children. so why wait until you are old and frail before you learn this lesson? Why leave it until you can only look back with regret? Occasionally we do have moments of clarity where we can see things for what they are. and though it isn’t sexy and certainly doesn’t win any accolades down the pub or in the dojo (training hall). We lose sight of these truths because they are domestic and day-to-day ordinary. but we can’t control our temper when we’re tired and stressed from work? Really? Is this harder than giving up your life? Well. Friends and family. and even though it may seem trivial. but when you take a step back and get things in perspective. but take a quiet minute. but this is oh-so easily lost. and that other more pressing matters necessitate a greater priority space over our energy and attention. In one of life’s rather unfunny ironies. it all seems important at the time.wherever. this is a long hard fight against an invisible enemy that we usually don’t understand. and most of us would. Recognise 21 . This wears you down. you can see that there is nothing more important in this world than those you love. All you have to do is to be honest about how you’re affecting those who are closest to you. Never mind your reputation or social standing. In turn we are fooled into thinking they must be a fairly low priority. in a sense perhaps it is more difficult. domestic or unimportant. This is what makes it so difficult. and they all say the same things – friends and family. Not money. You don’t have to tell anyone (although it will often help). This is what makes it the hardest fight of all. when you feel there is no fight left in you.this is actually the most important fight of your life. people and relationships – these are the things that are important. and not be distracted by false promises and mistaken priorities that would sidetrack us from life’s happiness. Think about it . Never mind work – chasing overtime or promotions.

and is still realistically within your power to 22 . including two world wars and years of food rationing. keeping going. granted. perhaps not something that you share with every single person of the population. I think many of this older generation are right in thinking that we often ‘don’t know we’re born’. and don’t realise how lucky we are. but what their old-fashioned advice hasn’t told us. Well. I don’t think this is just about getting older (I hope not anyway!). Exhaustion? Fatigue? Anxiety? Despair? Do you doubt everything you ever thought you knew about yourself? Guess what? This is normal. with fears about mental health and selffulfilling prophesies abounding. Mental health? Slippery slope to the funny farm? Sure. then that piece of advice – if you think you can. other than lying back and sinking even further. then you’re right. the more truth I can see in a lot of these sayings. After all.“if you think you can. but this is certainly much more common than you would ever dare to believe. that lived through some real hardships.if you do believe these things. one self-fulfilling prophesy coming right up! You know the old saying . then there is a much greater likelihood of them becoming true. If you think you can’t. There is one course of action that remains positive. This motto is part of the home-grown philosophy that belonged to my grandparent’s era. or if you think you will end up ruining your relationships. if you want this to be your truth.from that initial onset of depression. or perhaps fear that you will never get back to work again . If you think you can’t. then you’re right. this was a generation accustomed to concentrating on survival. is how to actually put this into practice. because you are not alone in this. on getting through.I’m sure you’ve heard as many as I have. Here I am. If you think that you are going to keep falling . there is more to it than that. then you’re right – really does hit right on the button. Not like us softies today. and the subsequent gradual sink to the depths of despair. It seems that our Grannies might well have a point. Out of this seems to have come an ability to cut through the crap and get to the heart of an issue. bang in the middle of my thirties.anything of your own situation in those words? If so. Ok. The generation of my grandparents was one that was tough. So what do you do? Where do you go when you want to get up off your knees but can’t? When you recognise the truth in these words but lack the strength to get up and sort yourself out? What do you do then? There is only one thing you can do at this stage. the older I’m getting. No problem. then you’re right”. but that perhaps came with the territory. then please don’t give up. There are lots of similar such sayings and old wives tales . Not always very sensitively. only just waking up to this realisation… In the context of the slippery slope to the funny farm.

it can be a double-edged sword. no. Especially now that we have children. perhaps for some people it is. Or so you might expect. that’s all. feeling that you should always be able to manage everything without any help at all. But like many things. especially to a medical person of some sort just sounds dangerous. It’s straightforward enough . Accepting that you can’t handle something is difficult enough. Worse. and don’t have a problem with that. but it’s in there. But what exactly is this life saver? ASK FOR HELP. Not good. Something unhealthy in there for sure. and face some of the confidence issues that used to hold you back. but as adults we can. but for me it’s a real killer. One side effect is that it can be very difficult to ask for help – even in simple situations where it really shouldn’t matter. even by people that I know and trust. not unable. and definitely not incapable. Young kids look up to you so much. reluctances to do this or that. so I’ve always known that I’m not exactly what passes for normal. to be independent. more so when it means also admitting that you’re not coping. and even when we know that we can’t carry this weight any further on our own. and prefer not to do. I can manage. Now you can push through these barriers because you are doing it for your kids. I was brought up to stand on my own two feet. there is also the paranoid mind. I felt that asking for help would be the same as admitting weakness or failure. Aside from the macho-male psyche (more on this later). often cursing myself for not being able to accept that little bit of assistance. inside my head. Nothing wrong with that – it’s been a very positive thing in general. and has undoubtedly been to my advantage for the most part. I don’t like the idea of strangers knowing. thanks. and press on alone. even when we know we’re teetering on the very edge.orat least up to a point. ounds easy doesn’t it? Well.I just have to be strong. In actual fact you start to live this role a little. but hey. I will almost always say. This can enable you to overcome some of your own silly fears. if help is offered. innocently expecting that you can solve all the problems in the world – a bit like being their Superman! Of course. at their age they can’t see why this might not be so reasonable. Talking to strangers.carry out. they might find out I’m not ‘normal’… Ok. Yet it is one that many of us are uncomfortable with. But still. Ask a doctor for help? Tell a doctor what’s going on inside my head? They’d probably lock me up! I 23 . and start to believe some of it yourself. Ask for help? Admit to someone what’s going on in my head? Uh-oh. Not weak.

but just at the ludicrous nature of it all – to be honest you really can see the funny side of this. Now I am actually worried. Not maliciously. there is no other option than to swallow your pride and ask for help. but how would I prove I’m not mental? I’ve joked about those things in the past. it might just be therapeutic… The bottom line is that when you simply can’t get up off the floor by yourself (and believe me. really worried about some of the things inside my head. Laughing at me. you know – One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and all of that? Put me in a mental hospital for a day or two and it could be quite a challenge to get out again! But at least then I was joking. then no matter how you might feel about it. quirks and all. there is also a part of me that is laughing. Laugh or cry? Cry or laugh? Maybe both. At the same time. who knows. it’s ok just being myself. you will know).mean. 24 .

Too many feelings of weakness and failure to face . my children. because the moment it came up for discussion. In the event. irrespective of how bad things got. it’s hardly manly is it? Hello. not that bit). They couldn’t understand why sometimes it was ok.I would rather have crashed and burned than face this for myself. wondering what on earth I was doing there. I would doubtless be given well meaning advice. Otherwise I would never have gone. so instead I waited and pondered on the idea. Trouble was. And accompanying this advice would be the unspoken pressure to do something about it. it’s a bit like having your manhood removed (no. You try remembering the devastation in your child’s eyes after they have been screamed at. lets be honest here. to get used to the idea before I had to make any sort of decision. All I knew was that I didn’t need pressure from anyone. thinking about going to the doctors. when they’ve only committed a relatively minor ‘crime’. getting my head around the idea proved to be much more difficult than you might have thought. To Bare One’s Soul So there I was. and why at other times Daddy seemed to turn into a scary monster. I mean. myself included. I would never have gone to see the doctor for myself. My wife. like spilling some juice on the floor. my name’s Paul and I’m weak and pathetic. and what would all these people think if they knew? It was so tempting to just get up and walk out. So there I was. I did decide to go and see my GP… I wrestled with this in my mind for some time without mentioning it to a soul.3. I knew that if I 25 . in the end. Except I wasn’t the only one with a stake in this. especially my beautiful children – what could they understand of this? How could they make allowances for a ‘grown-up’ problem that they couldn’t possibly comprehend? All they knew was that Daddy kept shouting and yelling. The sorry truth is that you can’t take back things like that once they’ve happened. who would know? It’s not like anyone was going to drag me back in. sitting in the waiting room. Although it meant the whole thing stretched out for longer. and occasionally smacking them. Still. to take the next step and to sort it out. But what you can do is to stop it from happening again (and again and again…). Please can you help me cope with my little life? It doesn’t seem like a very positive thing to do. Doing this was what sent to the doctors. it also meant I had sufficient time to think it through properly. talking to them about everything. In truth. Why? Well.

the negativity of it all serves to undermine my resilience. I might have embarrassed myself and got upset or something. my energy and motivation. and importantly. and got a male GP instead. Once such a chink is exposed in my armour. Mind you. made myself look less of a man . this reluctance to talk is not quite as sad and testosterone-driven as it might sound. that I WILL find a way through. but I would manage to stay reasonably calm and relaxed. 26 . this has the opposite effect . over and over. eating away at my strength. with the ‘noble’ thought of doing it for them. I didn’t. this belief of mine that I will find a way through. simply because I had every faith that I would find the answer. There are actually good reasons why I might not want to open up and talk about my problems.stress is actually created by raking through the detail. the only person on this whole planet that has ever understood more than one or two parts of me. and settled for outlining my concerns in a very matter-of-fact way.you know. is it…? So I missed out some of the more delicate details. or at least not fully. A word of advice for the guys out there – ask for an appointment with a female doctor. has also helped me to remain positive through some difficult periods. And that’s just not the done thing. And what of the cliché that men just need to open up and talk about their feelings? Personally I can’t see the point in going over and over old ground. He was sympathetic and said all the right things. And I was there because of my kids. It’s funny looking back. So I stayed. Persistence. I might not have known how or when I would find a way around such and such a problem. I would never go back. Far from releasing the pressure. refusal to stop. Worse. Chewing over frustrations just seems to bring them closer to the surface. Well. I couldn’t. in that my attitude has always been that I WILL find an answer to whatever problems I have faced. re-running painful experiences like an old video.walked. and for my wife. we could almost have been talking about DIY or the weather. just keeping going – it is incredible how strong this resilience came be. For many years I have been a fighter in my approach to life. but I didn’t really open up. then all manner of negative thoughts and feelings seem to find their way in with ease. At times it has been this ingrained belief that has kept me going.

In later years this was compounded by my peers in much the same way. Unfortunately this seems to be part of the human condition. as any sign of weakness was equated with being some sort of a girl. ‘soft’ even. probably the world over. As a boy I was well aware of bullying long before I knew what it was called. discussing my current problems and feelings with someone else. I have to point out that this opinion does not come from a perspective of having grown up in an especially poor or deprived area. stop being a baby. something that is particularly obvious with the boys. but a stranger? The ‘big tough’ side of the male psyche can make this very difficult. I have to say. and started me off with the good old-fashioned British ‘stiff upper lip’ . or from someone who suffered terribly at the hands of bullies. In fact. or how these things affect you. It becomes apparent that your feelings should be suppressed. Yes. grit your teeth and just keep smiling.as far as I can tell.take it on the chin. There are certainly cultural roots to this in the West. whether in a group situation or on a one to one basis. but that was only an 27 . Although all kids learn how to assert themselves (and some do it more ‘vigorously’ than others) there is usually a difference between the boys and girls in terms of the use of. and are certainly not there to be talked about! We can all see evidence of this in society today – particularly (though not exclusively) within the male population. This is just a fact of life. isolated or ganged up on by the lads I called my friends. just keep going. but when you read between the lines. But this wasn’t the stuff that makes the news. presumably on account of having lived through it themselves. I think most of us do. made a fool of. and especially the threat of violence. it seems that it doesn’t actually matter how you feel. I guess this did ‘toughen’ me up a bit. This intimidation was simply an unpleasant but accepted part of life.. my experiences as a teenager were pretty normal. I did suffer from some degree of bullying during my school years. Don’t let people see that it bothers you..On the other hand. There are some good aspects to this. It is interesting when talking to other parents that the dads usually understand this much better than the mums. Not only someone else. there were times when I was picked on. or that ends up in tragedy. I remember as a kid being told to stop crying. don’t let it show. Peer pressure and threats of bullying start at nursery age. Unspoken threats of violence and domination of peers by intimidation went on all around us from a very early age. I would have to admit that I would feel uncomfortable. It still is – I can see exactly the same things going on within my children’s school.

in what can often seem to be a terribly unfair world. stick the metaphorical boot in. you at last have some chance of dealing with it. that training in the martial arts can have a dramatic effect on both their perception and understanding of these events. then your techniques stand a reasonable chance of delivering the goods in a live situation. Sometimes it’s spread around. we all did this to each other. sweat and tears are required. and can’t wait to have a go. Although this whole cycle is easy to spot. and one that can ’keep you in your place’ for a lifetime. Obviously this doesn’t happen overnight. parents or boss isn’t looking. as we have all seen thousands of examples of this along the way. and the psychological attacks and dominance are usually much more damaging than anything physical. Now you find yourself knowing that if violence were to occur. you start to understand how little threat there usually is in front of you. 28 . Interestingly it can be seen that many of the largest group – the occasional victims . some days it’s good natured. a handful as eternal victims. which in turn starts to change your perception. as I did. We are conditioned from birth by our experiences. As a result. Many take their place and accept their role. willingly and often gleefully. Someone ends up as that day’s victim. at others one of the lads becomes the focus of everyone else’s attention. Assuming that your chosen art/teacher has at least one eye on reality and pressure testing. In this instance our experiences tell us that the strong will often get away with murder when the teacher. we all know how it works.isolated piece of the picture . or perhaps isn’t interested. Your confidence in this ability grows. we love it when it’s someone else. So we all know the score. It has to be said that this can get very nasty. It doesn’t matter when people try to tell us otherwise. But before long you become increasingly able to deal with the threat of a violent attack. but most as just occasional victims. and we all join in. Maybe six of us are constantly taking the mickey out of each other. a fair amount of blood. which teach us what to expect. some as bullies. A significant number find. the games of domination and intimidation remain. and this passed as our ‘norm’. The same intimidating behaviours are used over and over. other days can get quite nasty.also double up as occasional bullies.the dynamics of a group of teenage lads generally means this is the deal for them all. it can be very difficult to break out of. And so it continues into adulthood. However. Although we might not like it when it’s our turn. and show us how the world is. and although this is often without any real risk of violence. as is the willingness to face your own failings along the way. A very negative cycle.

and made it easier for me to be honest about things. More on that later. Got a female doctor this time.Suddenly. a good martial art will also equip you for those whose attacks remain psychological. you can at last see the childish ego-driven game of dominance that is behind it all. you can also start to discover other ‘softer’ sides of yourself without feeling vulnerable or exposed. It is especially noticeable within the martial arts that as students develop and progress to a reasonable level of physical ability. but this breakthrough is a real beginning. Although this might appear to be a paradox. the subconscious fear of this leading to a violent attack. As a result you can start to take an increasing responsibility for your own life. Beyond this. By preparing you for these dangerous individuals however. and the follow up appointment a week later. to compliment the martial studies and become a more complete human being. Think about it. Yes. that I going my own way? Answer – the vast majority of the time they will do nothing.the violent minority do exist and should not be underestimated. pretty straightforward: when you understand violence. I did feel vulnerable. but the intimidation. and as the perceived physical threat diminishes. This is perhaps like the Samurai being taught poetry. and politely point out that I am not playing ball. as you start to develop some degree of capability in your chosen art. Now the options start to open up in front of you… Of course there are exceptions . calligraphy or flower arranging. just how much is a bad attitude or a casual insult going to hurt you? Sticks and stones. kicks and knife attacks. in fact. it is. Back to the doctors. but she made that ok. you know… So now you can face a confrontational situation at work. if you are prepared for punches. you don’t want any part of it. who opened things up in a different way. To be a balanced person. and understand the real implications of violence. and ask yourself – just what is it this guy going to do/say if I don’t go along with him? What exactly is going to happen when I stop this. as the fear is reduced. to develop and grow spiritually. Sure they can go sulk. is now exposed as falsehood. the intangible but very real forces that so often hold us back. many will also become more gentle in nature. Something to really aspire to. and afterwards I was very glad I had gone 29 . and to see this reflected in your everyday life. This breakthrough allows you to start taking control over the invisible threats.

The doctor had mentioned some sort of counselling service that could have supported me. it had some blurb saying that all problems are rooted in relationships. There is some support at home. acknowledging the referral from my GP. and to the difficulties that we all face from time to time. but otherwise it’s back into the busy lifestyle. and seem to be managing reasonably well. at least in the sense of being better than they were. but I’ve realised that there aren’t any quick fixes. This wasn’t your average busy GP. Would I like to talk 30 . that really did seem to care. pressed for time and asking the usual questions whilst trying to decide which box you fit into. This is supposed to be good for reducing stress. and SCREAM all of your frustration. Things are going better now. It wasn’t just that we didn’t have the ‘macho male’ thing in our way. I didn’t try to put up an argument at the time. Incidentally. at the top of your voice. Anything to avoid the discussion. that I can expect to take some time with all of this. If I don’t take steps to look after myself.through with this. out into the back garden and beyond. but also significant was her level of receptiveness. but I wasn’t keen. The letter was a bit strange really. and I went home and forgot all about it. that’s ok. Appointment over. who else will? Who else can? Does my own well-being not hold any priority for me? Not only were the questions important. not me and the doctor). Still a few issues. It goes like this: you open the back door of your house. Her personal tip was suggesting a way to head things off when you can feel the pressure building up. and she had said it would take months to come through. thus getting to the cause of our problems. A couple of weeks later I received a letter from the counselling people. so I guess I’m on my own with it. Counselling? Me? As if. She even related some of what she was saying back to her own family life. Where do I get my support? Where is the time for me? Where is the time for us as a couple? (me and my wife. I haven’t been back to the doctors. standing on my own two feet again. I’m back at work. she did warn that it doesn’t always make you too popular with the neighbours… Fast forward a few weeks. And actually. not my cup of tea at all. and has been tried and tested by the good doctor for many years. and that the purpose of counselling was to enable us to talk about our feelings around these relationships. This was different – a doctor that was really listening. she also hit the nail right on the head with some of her questions. so I just played along.

thank you very much. I’m staring at the letter. how I feel. which said that I would need to give them a call if I wanted to go on the waiting list. what’s going on here? I don’t remember making that call… But an appointment has been made. Or what might happen in a counselling session. but sometimes you have to put opinions.about my relationships in detail? Would I like to talk about how I feel? And with a stranger? I would rather stick pins in my eyes. far from it if I’m honest. though.. and hear what I’ve got to say first? Understand what I think. however. The letter stares back. then I definitely was not going. thinking that was the end of it.I know that professionals sometimes think in very broad-brush terms. I know. So I pick up the phone. Needless to say. here I am wondering – I mean. I’m not a hundred percent yet. and I’m not completely certain that an instant refusal is in my best interests. Not sure what to do . I read the rest of the letter. Hmm. and ring the number. and all along I think that this doesn’t make sense for me. and I’m looking in amazement at a letter from these people. daring me. I’m not stupid . and that if you want a different outcome. then you have to do something different. Ok. The lady on the phone. and with her voice making it all feel OK. Hello. Oh yeah. I didn’t bother. but I don’t really know what it is that these people do. It actually exists. At the back of my mind.. but still… if they has already decided that my problems were rooted in my relationships. Anyhow. is the realisation that once I’ve been to the first 31 . Call me old fashioned. You know. Stupid of me. Another couple of weeks on. My experiences in the martial arts have taught me that sometimes you need to step forward into discomfort. really not sure about this. presumptions and personal preferences to one side and dive right in. actually meet me. but I rather thought it would be nice if someone were to listen to me before they decide what’s wrong. so the initial letter was off-putting. giving a time and date for my appointment with a Counsellor. somehow. Still. But I was wrong.. great .I feel like a rabbit caught in the headlights. wondering. I confirm my appointment. What I’ve got here is someone offering help..thanks for offering. Only then are you really in a position to judge if something works for you. or try to dig my heart out with a spoon. mind made up. It’s a bit surreal. talking to the receptionist. I know why I don’t want to go. that this isn’t the sort of thing I do. but it’s really not for me… It seemed to me as if they were prejudging the situation before they had even met me. is nice and friendly. I know that I don’t want to go.

nice and easy. now that I’m here and have opened up a bit. telling myself that I would go along to the first session. At least then we could go through from start to finish. lots of possible reasons. Had a really busy morning.. It’s all a bit strange. and the benefits of going (which far outweighed my reluctance) were mainly realised in the days that followed each appointment. give it my best shot. I’ve belted back from work. the Counsellor had suggested that I seem to be carrying a great deal of frustration. how to give a concise version of events that fits into a forty minute session. and I found myself thinking a little differently. My call. on the plus side it means I haven’t given it too much thought. That way I kept control. almost late. The dreaded day arrives. but it would be better if we had several hours. feeling very rushed. to have them out in the open as if this were a normal everyday conversation. Still. Hmmm. and a few minutes later I’m in with the Counsellor. Not ideal preparation.session. and could tell myself it was only a single session – take it one at a time. which must be a good thing. I still wasn’t sure about signing up for six weeks. and it wasn’t too bad.. in that I had already got my head around this. For example. there was never any pressure from their side. probably some truth in most of them. but this? This is strange. Although I wasn’t certain what I’d actually gained from the session. I arrive a bit flustered. Although the whole counselling experience is not one that I had ever expected to have. Anyway. Get inside. Actually. if perhaps I hadn’t yet realised what the underlying cause was. and know that I’ve remembered to mention all of the relevant bits…? I mean. I will officially be a fucked up individual who is undergoing counselling. well over the speed limit. take a seat. and only then make the decision whether or not to carry on. we get through to the end of the first session. I will pick up on that in a later chapter. but to be fair. because it’s suddenly quite hard to explain why I’m here. all the way. however for the moment it is sufficient to say that the sessions I attended did stimulate a lot of thought. I would certainly recommend it – it’s surprising just how accurately someone on the outside can cut right 32 . It’s also quite surreal to be talking about things that are normally kept under wraps. but I started to ask myself if these were merely symptoms. I’m not sure I like the sound of that. I seem to be feeling alright about talking. one or two comments stayed in my head afterwards. it wasn’t dreaded. Harder still to know how to summarise everything.

who are prepared to listen and help you at a time when you really need the support. But this has to be worth a shot – after all. different approaches will always suit different people. I wouldn’t worry about different styles.through to the heart of an issue. if you don’t go along. and do so with an open mind. Usually where you’re just too close to see it for yourself. or any myths or stories you might have heard about counselling. then you will never know. After all. it might just be the thing that helps turn your life around. The important thing to consider is that there are well-trained people out there. Is it the right way forward for you? Well. 33 .

STARTING TO UNDERSTAND 34 .

and I can’t not do my job properly. this event is really important. But I’m not. and the conversation inside my head went something like this: What is this about? My family’s well-being. then maybe. one of my kids has a medical appointment this week at the local hospital.4. it’s what I get paid for. It’s something beyond the normal routine stuff. but now? I mean. I really do wish that I was making this up to illustrate a point. If it wasn’t for missing the last one. but… How much does your wife need you on this day? Hmm.besides there are expectations you know. I mean. After spinning out of control for some time. so both myself and my wife need to be there. As it happens.I mean. The Main Cause Of Anxiety Over the weeks that followed I began to realise that a great deal of the discomfort and anxiety in my life is actually caused by (guess who?) myself. I can’t possibly miss this and be unprofessional and uninformed and look bad and feel bad and… ARRRGGGHHH!! Believe me. quite a lot I suppose. It’s part of the job. Worse still. yes. professional standards to be upheld. Is that not the most important thing in the world? Well. I finally caught hold of myself. As much for each other as for the kids. how would it look? I can’t miss this. And how important is that? 35 . For example. it follows on from a previous event that I missed for similar reasons. I’d never get up to speed getting the information second hand from someone else . our appointment clashes with an major training event at work. so I can’t possibly go . to do with legal issues that will affect how we work in the future.

would she really be difficult? Well. so your kids need you. no. but… And what about work – would your colleagues really object? I don’t suppose they would really… Your boss. and these are the most important things in the world. From a few people.. I suppose I could get this from someone. come to think of it. and you can catch up with whatever you miss? Yeah… So you know what to do? Yes. she would probably tell me to stop being daft and go look after my kids. right? Yeah… And your workmates and boss will understand. no real harm will be done. OK. your wife needs you. the all-important legal stuff? Hmm. What would she say if you talked to her about this ‘dilemma’? Errm. And do you feel stupid now? 36 . I guess not.Well obviously it’s important. And catching up afterwards? Remember.

yes. each with self-evident strengths and weaknesses. Oh.completely unnecessary and entirely avoidable. Be quiet.this can be illustrated by looking at a couple of my colleagues from work. they are in their late thirties / early forties. I guess so… Do you know where this all came from? Well . It came from you – all of the stress and upset was avoidable. keep your thoughts still and feel for the proper flow of things. not really. but everything else is true to life). and both are experienced in their field. Time to start doing things differently. You created it by allowing your thoughts to spiral downwards.Errm. 37 . but both seem to get the job done. By way of introduction. And other times just stop thinking. see things in their proper perspective. Do you think all this grief could have been avoided? Yes. These are both people that I worked alongside a couple of years ago (I have changed their names. They have very different natures. Different people create stress and anxiety for themselves in different ways . Richard and Keith. Worse still it was only a perceived problem. The rest is all your own creation . But how? By taking a step back . which in reality will take no more than a quick phone call to resolve. and stop this nonsense.no.try to look at things as if you were advising a friend.

I know something isn’t right though . and usually delivers the goods. that 38 . He always takes responsibility. we all like someone who is honest about their mistakes. Sure. he is quick to acknowledge fault and apologise. although I have to say it’s never been under the microscope. and sort it out quickly afterwards. A recent development however. I’ve been around a while. But this feels different. and you know that it is all honest. but strives to do the right thing. making sure they’re the ones least likely to be picked up. If something has gone awry. but you can be sure he will learn from it.Richard is a guy that is clearly dedicated and cares about the role. and good fun to have around – a born entertainer. so now we need to keep on eye on him. but when he loses the attitude and opens up a bit. and is one I have always suspected of being a bit lazy. but on the odd occasions when no-one else has been around. seen it all before. he will go away and brood. or just being clever about the jobs he doesn’t do. You know. This guy takes it personally. then he will hold his hands up and be honest. Just a couple of times. it’s very clear that he is not at all satisfied with his life. And if he doesn’t.to be honest I’m usually fairly relaxed myself. is that he went off sick for a couple of weeks with stress. It’s like he’s taking the mickey. he makes the best of it. In addition. But otherwise. what a star . Those around him will quietly voice the same opinion – when everyone else is always busy. all straight from the heart. Well. and come through a more capable person for the experience. right? Hmmm . I know that’s not always good. On the odd occasion when they are noticed. then I know that it isn’t for the want of trying. this guy never seems to break a sweat. always on the go.the biggest giveaway is that he’s just too laid back. Maybe he’s off-loading work elsewhere. and this will often trouble him for a while. and try to take it all with a sense of humour. but not me. He feels the weight of responsibility a bit too heavily at times. so you can’t fool me so easily. It isn’t difficult to figure that he is just going through the motions without any real commitment. Keith is far from content with his lot. I know that despite the façade of happy-go-lucky. gets through with a mask of humour and sarcasm.I wish we had more like him. I’m not knocking it as an approach.other people might buy it. it seems that he wonders if this is all that there is. he has actually dropped this front. Not from him. give him some support when he starts taking too much on. saying it was an oversight. His work seems to stand up to scrutiny. Keith is a different kettle of fish entirely. He is entirely likeable. Beneath the surface. If things do go wrong.

and who would love to see him slip and get caught out. as we have all assumed. During this conversation I started to wonder whether everything is really as it seems. and utterly reliable. a better worker even. 39 . he will make sure the job is done. Perhaps it is beneficial to care a little bit less about your job. This is making him ill. but now you have to wonder… And what about our friend Keith? From a different perspective. this is a guy that is keeping on top of his job. this must actually make his home life less fraught. more substance to his life. and certainly no complaints. What else – he seems to make it look easy? Well. The guy has been off with stress – something I now understand. perhaps his approach makes it easier. not making him ill either? Has to be a positive in the wider scheme of things. doesn’t understand how to prioritise? Perhaps he finds it hard to say ‘no’. but it isn’t likely to be good. who also has a dim view of Keith’s approach. Look again at Richard – yes. but just the fact that you can be more productive if you’re fairly relaxed and happy. rather than strung out and ready to snap. What about the effect on his family – it’s not like this is a single guy that can go home and chill out. full of enthusiasm. so life must be pretty hectic at home. he’s dependable. But is that really such a good thing? From his employer’s point of view then perhaps it is. It’s well hidden from view for the most part. Besides. Yes. I was talking with another colleague recently. Perhaps this is not a cover for someone slacking. Not causing grief at home. a minute ago Richard was the ideal worker. We can only guess at the impact that Richard’s stress levels are having on his home-life (because us blokes don’t talk about sissy stuff like that). and allows others to offload work onto him? Just think. perhaps things aren’t as bad as they seem. I know his wife works full-time and isn’t very supportive either. why is he taking too much on board? Is this because the company are taking advantage of his good nature? Is it because he struggles to make good use of his time.he secretly longs for more depth. but it’s there.. he’s married with a couple of kids.. but let’s take a wider perspective for a moment. I mean. as a result of being less bothered. something I now have very different views on. he’s taking work so seriously that it is having an impact on his health. The fact that he doesn’t take issues home with him and can switch off from the demands of the job. no obvious problems. in fact you might take the view that you could become more effective.

Bottom line is that the guy who is trying his hardest to do the right thing. However.Confused? So am I. I would also point out the errors of his ways. but hey – if it was easy then everyone would be doing it! When he starts to work towards this. in terms of time. My advice to Keith would be to stop being so selfish in his approach. as this will always be empty and unfulfilling in the end. is definitely building his own levels of stress and anxiety. Richard is creating much of his own pain through his approach to life. Personally. although some of Keith strategies are worth using. poor engagement and lack of motivation are not a recipe for a fulfilling life. I would also explain this as being ultimately selfish. whether literally or mentally. however unpalatable it might seem at face value. On balance I would say that neither of these guys are lined up for any degree of happiness or contentment. help and kindness. he needs to take a leaf out of others’ books. to be a good person. and yes. I have ‘been’ both of these guys at different stages in my life. Richard will find that he is more 40 . After all. be a good father or partner. it could just appeal to Keith’s nature. and learn how to avoid taking work home. and make sure he maintains this integrity and honesty throughout any changes – this is important if he is to grow and find balance as a person. and that he has to start balancing this out by looking after himself. and in doing so help him to find a different way. commitment and enthusiasm. As contradictory as this might sound. deliver a good service at work or in the community – how can you sustain this in the longer term if you don’t take the time to look after yourself? To do this. he must hang on to the things he’s got right thus far. It can be a difficult process at times. Vitally for Richard. as one of the main goals here is to discover a more fulfilling life for yourself. and neither were sustainable positions for me. My advice to Richard would be to give himself a pat on the back for his honesty. his selfish intentions. how do you continue to serve others. He should try taking a greater responsibility and give more to others. let alone pushing forward their own growth or development. a better way. actually he could learn something from Keith. Ironically he will find himself more productive for doing so. Learn how to take a step back in order to maintain a more balanced and happy life.

A key point in turning his thinking around. and the majority won’t. But you can. 41 . Taking responsibility for your own life is the second step. That by putting himself first occasionally he will be better placed to continue to serve and support those around him. and many simply don’t. anxiety and discomfort in their lives. Richard may well feel that to take a less ‘fullon’ approach would be selfish. is to help him to see this as something he should really do for others.upbeat and positive. These guys might or might not take this on board. has more energy and feels altogether healthier. Understanding this is the first step. and what could be better than that? Because of his tendency to put everyone else first. but clearly they are both causing much of the stress. He should even find some of the old buzz again.

Time 42 . Anyhow. but what a revelation! And totally empowering. but think about it – suppose you might feel angry towards your partner because of something they had said. and all the other negatives in your system at that moment.5. even if I’d started out with right on my side (which I had. no matter what they do or say. It does. You then spend the next hour or two getting more and more worked up. a book that I was reading made the point that everything in your life is actually your own responsibility. There’s no need for a hypothetical situation here – it would be fair to say that we’ve been around this particular loop a good few times. The bottom line is that you must take action. at least twice). I have kept this in mind ever since. is that they don’t exist anywhere except inside your head. I actually managed to get in before the big explosion. until you’re all revved up and ready to go. feel myself getting less tolerant and more pointedly sarcastic with each moment that passed. and you certainly won’t be listening. You will simply explode like a cork from a bottle. in fact go deeper than just taking responsibility for your actions. with all that selfrighteous anger. don’t value your opinion.* I found this mind blowing – so simple. and can certainly say that it changed my outlook on life. talk to your boss. the last time this started to build up. But the responsibility for your life belongs to you. This holds true even if others are treating you badly (I think the example used was an abusive boss at work). If that doesn’t work you might consider trying to arrange a transfer. pent-up frustration from the crap week you’ve had. and you alone. I could see it coming. adding a little more self-righteousness each time around. running it over and over in your mind. What usually happens is that I end up looking like the bad guy. How about taking responsibility for your thoughts too…? The first thing to recognise about your thoughts. or if all else fails. All of it – WHAM – and out it comes.. You won’t be thinking straight. you plan to let them have it. And then when your partner comes in. talk to his/her boss if necessary. Talk to colleagues. then look for another job. Several years on (it can take me a while) and I finally have realised that I only grasped about half of the lesson. In one way this is stating the obvious. Whose Responsibility Is It Anyway? A few years ago. or perhaps you feel that they don’t listen to you. particularly on how I view and react to the seemingly unreasonable actions of others.

Not force it through with the analytical side of my head. I’ve dabbled with some bits & bobs of meditation before. dragging the dog down the road.to go. I can’t see anything in the pitch blackness except for the silhouettes of a few trees and houses. It’s very rare that I actually stop. Off I go. a bit like the meditation stuff. and then the stress and tension starts to fall away.grabbed the dog lead (and the dog). Standing. Whew! My intention was just to get out. here I am. hardly surprising given the difficult day she’s had today…………… There I am. but I have played with some of the basics. but not quite managing it. With a busy life. let’s relax. Hang on a minute. …………So……………… why is my wife reacting to me in this way? ……. Just standing. note: Think what through? This sounds a bit vague). I’m twice round the cricket pitch before I realise that I’m route-marching.. Anyway. I’m looking for the proper flow of things. …… …. and think about walking on. she actually needed my support……………she did seem a bit abrasive though……………mind you. I’m all tense. quick before I say something really damaging . OK. but let if float through. Trying to let the negative thoughts go in the breeze. I remember ……………… she’s had an especially tough day today……………… I knew that…………… hmm. avoid the big shouting match and give myself a few minutes to calm down. But I don’t.. The confusion and emotions start to clear. in the middle of the local park. and which aren’t. re-fighting the battle. and think this through (Ed. An age passes. no nothing. This time I stay put. not sure how I managed to forget that before………. but somehow all sense of time has gone – it could have been hours. I had managed to shout at her. come to think of it. get myself feeling all hurt 43 . So I decide to stay where I am. no thoughts. So now I feel a bit better. round the corner and off towards the park. Just standing. still standing. finally realising that at the precise moment that my wife needed some love and support. and with it. Deliberately relax everything mentally.. So I stop. just enough to see which thoughts are real and valid. a simple soul alone in the darkness.…… oh yeah. and then collapse for an hour in front of the telly before bed. slow things down a bit. contemplate things. I never seen stop until it’s late. but can’t seem to find it. always something to do next. over and over again. and out of the house. Deliberately relax everything physically. there comes lots of running around. still running this through my head. nothing serious. I have probably only been still for a minute or two. and do nothing.

I seem to have an unerring ability to say the wrong things. and starts to impact on other people. 44 . the options that open up. and then we often struggle to see which way is up. in fact the potential of your whole life. Scary in some ways. these are only thoughts.and defensive. Also. You can stop them in their tracks and create an alternative outcome. and I will not be dictated to. Time to move . I didn’t get a grip quickly enough to prevent any damage from being done. Compassion.. The idea of taking responsibility for yourself in every way. They might be uncomfortable but they’re not real. Once you allow this to influence your actions.dog back on lead. or so I’m told. For the moment though. before they grow into something uncontrollable.. off home and apologise. I’m going to make my own choices. Something to do with being male. All along thinking this didn’t need to have happened. in both your thoughts and deeds. just contemplate the possibilities here. Try to make things right. ok. yet again quite simple. A page or two back I stated that thoughts and emotions don’t exist anywhere except inside your head – this is true. often making things far. but can you imagine the potential freedom. A key point here is to understand that you can stop these thoughts before they take on a life of their own. behaviours or moods. maybe a tinge of guilt as well.. it should actually be pretty straight forward. but only for as long as the thoughts stay there. Ok. to instinctively press the wrong buttons. if you can just put this into practice? Truly mind blowing. they only exist in my head. far worse than they ever needed to be. instead of feeling like I’m acting out a scripted part where the future seems to have already been decided by apparently inevitable choices. In the example above. and then buggered off up the park with the dog! What do I feel now? Love.. There are frequently times when this opportunity comes well within your grasp. but I did realise before it got out of hand. Tell yourself – I’m not having this. although it can seem complicated when you try to apply these ideas and principles to real life. the potential of your creativity. The point of that story? Well. then it becomes part of reality. is both daunting and exhilarating. It only becomes complicated when our emotions kick in. and I will come back to this a little further on.

positive and negative. however the Yin and Yang concept can help us to understand something more about the world we live in. At a basic level. Bear in mind there are few things in life that are truly black or white. Seemingly different opinions and definitions provide some degree of confusion. It may be no more than the spark of potential for a positive outcome. is said to have meant ‘the light side of the 45 . for those that are minded to look. however. but instead many. You can see that the black swirls into the white. A third version of events sees us considering the original written characters for Yin and Yang. but there is a ‘silver lining’ to be found. It might be a very small element. The symbol for Yang. This is said to represent how everything contains the seed of its opposite within it. in truth a given situation is never totally one thing or the other.Another perspective on taking responsibility can be seen by looking at the concepts of Yin and Yang. and is symbolic of how all things contain both Yin and Yang. If we look closely at something that is usually thought of as negative. hard and soft. they can indeed mean opposites or polarities. This holds true for almost all situations. male and female and so on. rather than just being a useful way of describing opposites. Nothing wrong with this. However. but it is there if you look closely. Keeping this in mind. many different shades of grey. there is always an element of positive in there as well. we start to see that although complete opposites may seem to exist. we need to consider Yin and Yang at different levels of understanding. and the white into the black. taken in the most literal way. instead of thinking of these as just terms of contradictory or opposing views. such as light and dark. At a deeper level. look at the circular black & white representation of the Yin and Yang concept. and vice versa. there is also a small area of black within the white area.

This is setting the tone for the whole day. the symbol for Yin meant the ‘dark side of the mountain. Different perceptions of the same mountain.. got the gist of it. my current situation might. The atmosphere is tense. Start to think that maybe if I tried. I would still struggle to find any real practical use for these ideas – this frustration seems to accompany many ‘mystical’ teachings from the East. The car is filled with unspoken tension.it’s a Saturday morning. cold and wet’. and the kids are being little sods in the back of the car. just acting their ages and being noisy with it. Perhaps I should try to take myself out of the situation. I haven’t got a drink. and different perceptions. and I’m getting uncomfortable. I’ve heard this sort of thing before.. moods and feelings. because you’re simply not looking. Beautiful green fields and lush countryside stretch for miles on both sides. I can see it’s actually a beautiful day . shouting. As the minutes pass by in stony silence. the topic of which I can’t even recall now. By contrast. shaded. I get the general picture.in fact we are now looking at different views of the same thing. you can see that we are no longer looking at opposites . enjoying each others’ company. just might seem different. I’ve just had a big argument with my wife. fighting. and in turn have a knock-on effect on 46 . away from the three lanes of tarmac. This was exactly the same journey. It’s hot. We’re heading south on the motorway. occasional houses and farm buildings – the things you wouldn’t usually notice. Like many of us. wooded areas. I started to understand that the way we view our situation has a huge influence on how we interact with it. You could grate cheese on it. an hour and a half drive for a pre-arranged visit to the in-laws.. Not really fighting. and I’m already close to start shouting at the kids. and see things more objectively… Now that I have stopped to think. With this in mind. warm and sunny’. and it’s pretty warm for a March weekend. Not good. bright. the sun is blazing through the windscreen. The kids are playing in the back of the car.mountain. Then I look outside. just messing about and having fun.yeah. just seen from a different perspective.. Picture the scene . I used to think .the sun is shining. I start thinking about mountains. This will impact on our actions. The significance (or at least one significance) of these concepts finally came to me on a family day out. and I can feel the beginnings of a headache coming on. yelling. Although this was true in one sense. and generally winding me up. Maybe even the whole weekend. I can see fields.

by kind permission. and the day got back on track again.those around us. the most important thing is that we are happy in our lives. but there is a sense of freedom. For me. Importantly. that it’s down to you as an individual – you alone can decide which way your day/week/life goes. There is a huge amount of potential here. but at least I am now very aware that I no longer have any excuses So. moods and so on. OK it wasn’t perfect. you can choose to steer in this direction or that. and all of it is positive. This shift in perspective helped to divert what was starting to look like a very grim day. It’s perhaps a little scary as well. finding I have some influence over areas that I previously thought were out of my control has been liberating. Let’s be clear here. With this. and their actions. Next time things are looking bad. and for me this was a beginning. but I am saying you can decide to choose a different path if you wish. the outcome is not predetermined. And as for my journey on the motorway? Well. I still have much work and practice to do in this area. I lost the option to make excuses. and found I had responsibility instead. At this point you realise that although you are never in complete control of a situation. the situation is not in control of you – you are not destined to have a crap day. The fact is that it is no else’s fault. but you can also do something about it. You’ll find the sun is usually shining… * Acknowledgements to Geoff Thompson. 47 . Instead you have choices in front of you. the mood did change as we continued down the motorway.take a look at the other side of the mountain. not only is the responsibility yours. At the end of the day. because the buck stops with me now. but then we’re all human. a definite feeling that nothing will ever be quite the same again. give it a go . I’m not saying it’s easy.

Of course there are benefits to looking at techniques and methods that might be useful. The whole elephant. The first had hold of the trunk. what to try.99 (or often more). and they often lose their view of the bigger picture along the way. A wealth of information from across the world. The story tells that the elephant was standing in front of the five men. the whole mind. not one of them had any idea what an elephant looked like. rather than the essence of the teachings. maybe… but only a little. The same can be said for the vast majority of the world’s large-scale organised religions. giving countless techniques. although it has been adapted over recent years for use in a variety of arenas. you will be amazed. and they were each asked to describe what they could feel. sort out all of the problems that led me here in the first place. How do you know where to look. which is great if you are lucky enough to hit upon one that really does work for you. This originated from a parable-type story within Hinduism. the second had a tusk. but have a tendency to focus on ‘this’ or ‘that’ aspect. and there are inevitably a few within these pages.6. the third had an ear. The point of course. or on the Internet. So it is for many of the self-help books that are available. and the fifth had the tail. When you go and look in the big bookshops. if you like. or to help us to relax our over-stimulated minds after a long day at work. When we adopt such a technique to help us identify the (apparent) causes of our stress and anxiety. The Cop-out I keep coming across the story of the five blind men who were asked to describe an elephant. Despite the fact they all described in detail what it was they had hold of. accurately and succinctly. 48 . is that none of them could ‘see’ the whole picture. one that will provide methods I can easily apply to my life. how these techniques might gel together or whether they actually conflict with one another? The focus of self-help books are often technique based – I guess that is what many of the general public are looking for when they spend their hard-earned on such a book. practices and disciplines for us to choose from. If I’m to part with my £9. Most can be seen to have genuine spiritual teachings at their heart. an easy “how-to” book. sprayed across a few shelves. Over simplifying? Well. what we often get are books full of ‘helpful’ techniques. that it can become a nightmare for the seeker on the path. Irrespective of the reasons why. This focus on detail leads to a narrowing of perspective. body and spirit thing is there. There are books to help guide you through every conceivable part of life. and in doing so. then what I want is a step by step guide. So many in fact. the fourth had a leg.

this method doesn’t fit into my lifestyle.he understood only too well how the advice related to his situation.. that technique wouldn’t work for me. No. a built-in excuse to cop-out. Ian (a friend of mine) had a similar experience a few weeks ago. Hopefully when he is feeling a little stronger. However. this was leading towards him having to face up to one or two truths. this also provides an opt-out clause. It didn’t have the ‘feel-good’ factor about it. Back to the books full of various techniques . We might even have picked out a long list of suggestions and changes that we want to make. but there is another side to this. as Ian is an intelligent guy. and within a book full of specific techniques and fixed disciplines. We are often not ready to face this. maybe some genuinely wouldn’t be right for you or your lifestyle. and take some sort of action. and usually an acknowledgement of having been wrong in some of your thoughts and actions to date. we often continue to miss the bigger picture – we’re looking so hard at the details that we don’t see the bloody great elephant that is standing right in front of us! By focussing on techniques and missing the overall picture. then Ian will pick up the article again. wisely nodding our heads at the good advice within. possesses the self awareness of it. A definite positive. No. or. As a result. Oh no. and although he bottled out on that occasion. it becomes all too easy to opt out. to take responsibility. the advice wasn’t wrapped up and disguised by fancy language or the author’s need to avoid upsetting anyone. but was extremely uncomfortable because it was just too close to home. He felt that this was more than he could handle at that moment in time. I don’t quite understand what they’re getting at there… Sound familiar at all? Maybe some things are difficult to understand. perhaps preferring to wallow in our situation a little longer before facing the pain that we associate with taking responsibility for ourselves. You mean you actually expect me to do something?! It is at this point that the excuses will flow. but we keep the list inside our head. to put it another way. and carry on where he left off. Unfortunately he couldn’t bring himself to pick it back up – a real shame when it was something that might really have helped his situation. Finding the right path will involve work and effort. and simply put the article down. All is not lost however. cut through the crap and got right down to the heart of the matter.we go on to finish the last chapter.this has to be a step in the right direction. and was reading an article which related closely to a personal problem that he had been struggling with for a while. It was written in plain language. Then we get on with our 49 . my friend started to realise that aside from being uncomfortably close to home. In Ian’s case he wasn’t in denial .

whether you trip and stumble along the path – no matter what. And it is true. In this context. is simply overwhelming. Many of these things are just different approaches to the same goal. and those that fell by the wayside? My answer was nothing if not predictable – dedication. Just keep going. the techniques themselves are little more than sticking plasters. spirit. pick yourself up. There is no rule to say that we can’t have occasional bursts of development. a great love of the art. you must be honest with yourself. and remember that the responsibility is yours. having failed to do anything different as a result. it’s not sustainable. but his answer was much simpler. As for the books overflowing with advice – sure. but I am reminded of a conversation I once had with an experienced martial arts instructor. some techniques will help along the way. Sure. we have a tendency to overdo it. and you will soon find that you have travelled a surprising distance. but without the solid foundation of self-honesty. after all there are some wonderful ideas out there. commitment. He asked if I knew the difference between those that gained the much desired black belt. discipline. We reduce this book. this is a sure-fire way to achieve your goals. not realising that this exhaustive list. Others will at least try. just walk. He told me that the students who achieved their black belt were simply the ones that didn’t give up. with it’s enormous life changing potential. We write them down. Just be sure that you pick out the ones that seem right for you. It may not sound too revolutionary to say that this is the answer. 50 . so much the better. It wasn’t exactly wrong. however positive our intentions. And if you do ‘fail’. On other days. the balance is between doing too little. to be nothing more than an ‘interesting read’.lives. dust yourself down and keep going.whether you fall foul of the negative voice inside your head. I will come back to the subject of goal setting in a later chapter. and attempting to do too much. And if some days you find that you feel like running ahead a way. and avoid the temptation to try everything at once. and you only need to find one or two that are right for you. however in the main our progress needs to be at a pace that is sustainable. Often by identifying a dozen or more action points that we need to address. the ones that kept going. Above all else. A pace a day. but the important thing here is to accept there is a balance to be found and to be maintained. every day. but when counter-balancing years of drudgery. if you do copout – then what? Then accept the experience as a step towards your goal. take a look. And as a result.

how hard life might seem to be. or whether you feel like throwing the towel in – JUST KEEP GOING! 51 .No matter how tough things get.

I have also spent a good deal of time studying some of its accompanying philosophies. although the most difficult part was trying to generate a genuine feeling of bad intention. I’ll do that).7. The most fascinating areas are those that lie somewhere in-between. or neatly classify as being ‘this’ or ‘that’. and the conditions were such that I couldn’t see or hear anything to give the attack away. No-one was more surprised than myself. rather than waiting for a physical assault. as this is a feeling. but surprisingly there has been more growth in the psychological and spiritual realms. Our work in the dojo was not a product of concentrated focus. when playing the role of attacker. of something being wrong. No clues. an instinctive knowledge of some impending discomfort. but it is also evident on CCTV footage of violent assaults in this. You can see this in nature fairly readily. Hands-on training in the dojo varies. Within this are exercises in sensitivity training. nothing to react to. our ‘civilised’ society. It was a feeling that that you need to move. The ‘Proper’ Flow Of Things I began delving into the mysteries of the martial arts some years ago. in response to the unseen attacks. or around the urban inner cities closer to home. Whether on the plains of Africa. those that aren’t so easy to define. This intention is given out subconsciously by virtually all animals at the point of attacking. when they intend to seriously harm or kill their prey. After a while. To 52 . and. in addition to the hours on the mat. as I had made no conscious thoughts or decisions. letting go and just feeling the intentions of your would-be attacker. It is difficult to describe. instead it had more to do with relaxing. At times this has been closely tied to the physical training. Sounds unlikely? I thought so… We had some fun playing with this at first. somewhere simpler. someplace more in tune with the natural world. Some degree of development on the physical level was of course inevitable.from the immediacy of a confrontation or attack through to the longer-term development of principles. I found that when “defending” my body was starting to move itself out of the way. only to find that you have moved already. This was somewhere beyond cause and effect thinking (if he does this. and at others more concerned with the application of martial wisdom in its widest sense. an instinctive sensitivity to our attacker’s intentions can be the difference between life and death. a few of which look at the concept of picking up the ‘killing intention’ of an attacker. The idea of the sensitivity training is that we can pick up on this intention. much the same as animals do when preyed upon in the wild. and the fluidity of movement and thought.

which my training partner was starting to give out a second or so before beginning his attack. it doesn’t work. my body had moved itself out of the way. After all.far too often to dismiss as coincidence. When I followed this feeling. No decision. it has also been said that it is only the beginning. this started to happen on a regular basis. but. Still. this sounds unlikely. I was subconsciously picking up on the intention to cause me harm.be more precise. a flood. You can’t force this. with little sign of the morning rush-hour.for example. Not just once or twice. as incredible as this “sensing of intention” may seem. So. as this was to have a major impact on my everyday life. and would drive right up to the front of a very busy car park. feeling the flow of energy within the universe. For example. If I try to arrive at an empty parking space. It was as if she somehow knew it would be there! Again. and was moved by something other than my own conscious self. I would invariably hit heavy traffic and arrive late. the next step is to strive towards understanding the intentions of the universe. my deep-rooted scepticism of those things that can’t be seen or measured. This now gets referred to (laughingly) as ‘Zen Parking’! Of course if I try to pick up the right feeling as I approach the traffic lights. Until recently. but it has happened time and time again . but bear with me. and pull into the space that was waiting for her. when I was relaxed and ‘in tune’ with things. no thought . ignoring my stressed out pleas to take that space. I would get a good run into work. This experience was both moving and bewildering. She’s usually pretty laid back. well… kind of trivial. The same goes for parking – I first saw this when my wife was driving. If however I ignored it. it’s as good as we’ll get.my body simply moved itself without waiting for the rational mind to get involved. it simply isn’t there.* I know how unlikely this is starting to sound. or some other natural event or disaster. I might feel a strong urge to take a different route to work as I approached a junction or crossroads. quick or we’ll lose it! She would calmly cruise right to the very front. and was enough to finally suspend my disbelief. a dead branch falling out of a tree. you can’t make it 53 . my own experiences around this broader idea of feeling the flow of energy of the universe were real. and gave me first hand proof that such things are indeed possible. It led me to challenge some of my beliefs and assumptions about the universe in which we live. not everything that could cause you harm will have a killing intention .

this would happen every morning. and really started to enjoy this time. And find it. In fact the harder you try. I started to experience a very strange feeling.happen. Whether at 7am in the rain. What’s more. A few weeks later. opened my senses and tuned in to the world around me. as I recognise what that means – that I have relaxed properly. a definite ‘feeling’. the birds would start to sing to me. A rhythm. So instead.what a glorious feeling! Of course. inevitably mean that I would be the ‘lucky’ person who got to take it for a walk every morning and night. This did. 54 . as if the birds were greeting me . and this deliberate effort to open my senses soon became something of a daily game. I eventually came to the conclusion that it wasn’t quite life changing stuff. you allow yourself to become receptive to these feelings or energies by simply slowing down and letting go. What became intriguing was the consistency of this feeling. it didn’t matter. and left it be. however. if you like. I would consciously slow down and look for this feeling. or 11pm in the dark. but now I smile when the birds ‘start’ to sing. and actually notice. and one which grew in strength over the days that followed. I began to feel increasingly relaxed as a result. After five minutes or so of walking in a morning. Absolutely amazing. just breathing and feeling. and to look forward to it. backwards and forwards. a pulse. This was like the flow and ebb of the sea. and how it would only happen when I slowed down. or . like my mind was being gently pulled by an unseen tide. However. and to practise breathing techniques. After a couple of weeks of this ‘walking meditation’. both physically and mentally. I remember this once being described by someone as slowing down to the speed of life. I began to use this time to slow my mind down from the rush of daily living. pushed this to the ‘unexplained bits and pieces’ part of my mind. but it took me this long to slow down my over-stimulated brain. and was quite fascinating for a while. they were really singing all the time. This happened quite a few times. the further away you get. It still takes a few minutes sometimes. Whenever I realised that I was rushing or stressed. standing quietly among the trees. Walking meditation.

I went to get out of the car. Nah. I got back in the car and set off home. but this would be beyond the pale for most of them… Around this time I had a peculiar experience. as she is probably the most open-minded person I have ever met. this guy was all right other than being black and blue bruised (although we did have some shenanigans around the insurance. and dismissing it all as fanciful nonsense. but who knows? I was a hundred yards from home when suddenly the brake lights came on in front of me. hey . I haven’t got a track record of paranoia. I was a little bewildered by the fact I had no idea what this was. as ever). I mean. I was about to nip up to the local shops (domestically orientated. we connect like this sometimes. but it made me think again about things… I know that when other people tell you unlikely tales such as this. I told myself. when I had a very strong feeling that I shouldn’t go. parked up and got out. I drove the half mile to the shops. thinking “how strange”. I was on red alert at this stage. something hit me from behind. when BANG. It’s certainly better than challenging your own beliefs and understanding of the universe. a gang or some other dangerous situation . but what about the rest of my family and friends? Well. Bottom line of this? Well. I mean. that was to have a dramatic impact on my life. Nothing happened. My wife had gone out earlier with the kids. I was also quite amused by the fact I knew there were very few people aside from my wife that I could actually discuss this with. I am very lucky. Looked again. but that’s a different story). next to the drivers door! He had hit my back end. But the feeling persisted. remaining just as strong. As it turned out.who 55 . same alertness. and to mentally shrug your shoulders and forget about it. thinking that I might run into a mugger. looky in a motorbike helmet lying on the road! Right there. it’s easier (and safer) just to write it off as coincidence. into the car – more strong feelings. I just managed to stop in time. and was a real find. sharing the same feelings. I went to a second shop. they’ve always known me to be a bit strange. there was no real harm done. and shrugged it off.after all there could be something to this. don’t be silly. as if this was something I really shouldn’t do. a treasure of some sort.Admittedly. and I thought maybe it’s just that she’s already bought the same stuff. Oh well. Looked in the mirror – nothing. but still nothing. but I felt certain that ‘it’ was connected with nature. Same feelings were there. and nearly jumped out of my skin to see a guy in a motorbike helmet lying on the road! Right there. and had been thrown right over to land near the front of the car. not good.

wants a hard life after all? But when it happens to you it’s different. When it happens to you it is undeniably real. I knew, absolutely knew from the start that I shouldn’t be going out in the car, and the only thing I did wrong was to ignore those feelings. Why? Simply because my rational mind, the logical/analytical part of my brain told me not to be so daft. I began to realise that I had always been over-reliant on this part of my mind, and that to develop I would need to find a balance. The room for growth was in allowing space for my intuitive side - the side that feels and just knows without being able prove (and yet somehow doesn’t need to prove anything at all). This side is mistrusted and therefore underused by most of us, but is in fact a pathway to opening up both your world and mind, not to mention countless possibilities.

A critical point at this stage is that having initially recognised these feelings, there is then a need to accept them without further judgement, to take them as being reasonable and ‘normal’. In order for this to develop further it is necessary to let this flow uninterrupted within your life, making sure to avoid the logical analysis that would stop it dead. A rather fitting quote that comes to mind is from the original Star Wars film - “Use the force, Luke…”. However corny that might sound, it does somehow seem to capture the essence of it all.

For myself, I am more at the stage of feeling this force rather than using it. This has much to do with nature, and rediscovering your senses. It’s about ‘un-learning’ established assumptions and beliefs, rather than learning anything new, a process of stripping away the layers of civilisation. Take a walk in the woods and breathe, go sit by the brook and be quiet, even get yourself a dog if it helps! See the trees and flowers for the first time – yes, I know how clichéd that sounds, but everything in nature is beautiful when you look at it with your senses in tune with your environment. I mean everything.

Use the force? Well, in time, maybe... You can’t train for this, neither can you go looking for it, because you will never find it this way. You can only prepare yourself, open your mind and senses, and be ready to accept this ‘feeling’. Then you let things happen in their own time, let things move at their own natural pace.

On a practical note - certainly this is worth it’s weight in gold for finding convenient parking spots, but what about the rest of it? Well, by being open and not trying so hard, I am beginning to find I’m making more of the right decisions. Better still I’m making less of the wrong ones. To be honest I

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can’t always explain why something is the right/wrong thing to do, I just know it to be the case. Later on the reasons will usually reveal themselves, and as long as I have been relaxed, and not consciously looking for an answer, then it has always, always been the right choice.

Sounds spooky, but the feeling is one of peace and acceptance. No hocus-pocus, no mumbojumbo. This is the ‘proper’ flow of things.

*Acknowledgements to “Bufu Ikkan" by Ben Jones, by kind permission. See website at www.japanesetranslations.co.uk

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8. An Equal Footing

An important element in the journey towards becoming a more balanced person, is to gain a better understanding of this life and the world in which we live. We must gain this understanding so that we can start to accept what ‘is’, and learn how to forgive others. This is essential, as we need to be able to forgive others before we can really understand how to forgive ourselves. These are no more than stepping stones along the path to compassion, however a huge leap is required if we are to find this new level of understanding. To move forwards we need to leave behind the narrow thinking of our past, and accept that everything is much broader than we have previously considered. This acceptance can be a formidable barrier to our development, so to work our way through this we have to go back to the first of those steps, and ask how we might start to gain a better understanding and acceptance of this life and the world around us.

The starting point is to see that we are, ultimately, all equal to one another. That we are all just people. To understand that the boundaries placed by colour, creed, social standing, age, gender, disabilities etc. are completely artificial. Worse, these boundaries are often promoted by people who should know better, and whose blinkered opinions and views are fuelled by nothing more substantial than ignorance or fear. Or often both.

A number of problems immediately spring to mind, including the fact that many of us were brought up with views that were once considered the norm, but are quite rightly no longer acceptable today. There is also the fact we often have little or no experience of some issues, and as a result simply don’t know our way around someone else’s lifestyle or culture. For example, how do you feel when you see someone in a wheelchair – do you open the door for them? Is this practical assistance, or will they be offended by some sort of implication that they can’t manage just because they’re in a wheelchair? Or suppose you meet someone with a disfigured face – where exactly do you look when you speak? How uncomfortable do you feel? Or maybe you meet someone who has difficulties speaking clearly – what do you do, a quick nod and a smile and keep on walking?

For myself, I grew up in the 1970s and 80s in a white area of Sheffield. The only kids that weren’t white at my primary school were brothers from the one black family in the local area. By the time I moved up to secondary school, an Asian family had also moved in down the street. That was the

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I remained in a state of ignorance until I was exposed to a wide variety of ideas and cultures over the years that followed. who make sure they fill the naïve and vulnerable with propaganda for their ‘cause’. In a perfect world. higher and higher. The correct terminology is apparently 59 . political views. distrust and intolerance. This is often evident at the corporate level. Not to mention mental illnesses. and nothing else. As a result I had no terms of reference for any of this. ageism. Not at all. I have to say that the easiest choice from this position is to trust what you know. is that Political Correctness (PC) is not the same as equality. gender and physical disabilities.entire extent of my contact with people from black or ethnic minority backgrounds by the time I left school at sixteen. or anything else that might have a less than clear definition. Of course in reality this is not the case. Many people inadvertently make this choice. and sometimes an over-reaction in the opposite direction was perhaps inevitable. which later turns into fear. heightism. initially perhaps just through ignorance. and lots of other ‘isms’ to boot. red herrings. it was recently pointed out (to my amusement) that the term politically correct is no longer an “appropriate phrase”. even without such sinister influences. But is this notion of “equality for all”? Is it a god given right or an unreasonable expectation? Is this the sign of a mature and evolved society. It wasn’t that I had grown up with any particular prejudice. or are the weak majority being pushed around by forceful minorities. we know there would be no inequality. but the list can go on and on – religious beliefs. And so it goes on – building barriers between people and cultures. It’s easy to see how kids are recruited by certain organisations. However. Out of interest. learning difficulties. these issues hadn’t touched my life at all. sexual preferences. or against ‘that’. so a reaction. or other people’s prejudices. no way of differentiating between genuine issues. Had I been exposed at that time to particularly strong views for ‘this’. each with their own blinkered agenda? An important point that needs to be made at this point. which is where the concept of PC appears to been created. Another problem is that although we have all heard of equality. If this was how I grew up. it was just that as I had no experience. do we actually know what it means? It’s a minefield isn’t it? The main issues are often assumed to be those of race. then I might well have been swayed by those beliefs. then others must have had similar experiences. and therefore no need for the overt sensitivity that has led to political correctness.

our initial reluctance started to give way to a growing enthusiasm. Got all three kids with us. we arrive at Deaf Club.? So. Well. the nature of BSL is that there are many regional variations on signs. politically correct! I‘m sure someone is employed in central government somewhere to make this stuff up… A year or two ago. and over time we found this to be a truly beautiful language. and her first language is British Sign Language (BSL). I went on to read the next line (always a good idea). how obvious… I mean. We were quite nervous. our signing becoming more natural and expressive. It’s 60 . but I do remember thinking how stupid it sounded. Do you treat everyone fairly? Strangers on the street. it seemed like a pretty strange way to communicate. do you treat everyone in your family fairly? Be honest with yourself. grab a table and sit down. or sound different? What about closer to home. For some time we had felt that my daughter was missing out by not having contact with deaf adults and other deaf children – after all despite being part of a loving (hearing) family. And it was. eventually we decided to go to the Deaf Club in Sheffield. This was a revelation to me – how simple. it seemed pretty straightforward. but people are having a good look at us on the quiet – perhaps they don’t get too many new faces in here? We get in.now culturally sensitive (CS?!). Eventually I take a deep breath and walk over to the bar. people at work? Training partners in the gym or at the dojo? People that look different. surely I could have figured that one out for myself? Treat everyone fairly? No problem. I can only surmise that Political Correctness is no longer. We have been learning to sign for a good while now. like all theories. Except the variations in sign can be totally different. I forget exactly where I read this. she also has a right to be part of the Deaf Community. After a few sessions. Not too many there yet. much like we have different regional accents around the country. in fact. Also. So. do you really…? One of my kids is profoundly deaf. Right up to the point where I tried to match it up with real life. but thinking back to when we started. as the theory of signing in a classroom environment is very different to meeting ‘real’ deaf people. I was surprised to come across the idea that equality does not mean treating everyone equally. Just the thing to build up your confidence. eh. don’t know anyone. just while we get used to the situation. and found it simply stated that equality means that we should treat everyone fairly. which gives us a reason to be preoccupied. not recognisable at all..

being able to ‘see’ other people’s conversation from across the room. and no confidence in using it. My confidence is dropping out of my backside now. That is to spell each letter of a word using your fingers. Oh no. I’ve never heard anything like the noise . Looking back though. and had a chance to get used to the scene in front of me. I feel out of place. Still can’t see it. and my body starting to sweat as panic takes hold. I get to the bar and manage to order some drinks. Please just let me go. Quiet in one sense. Tried a couple of (brief) signed conversations – not 61 . I can’t follow . and no hum of conversation. this woman has just spelled out a five letter word and I couldn’t read it. let alone strike up a conversation. Not sure how to order a drink. shouts and the occasional outburst of laughter. the night did get better as it went along. this doesn’t feel so difficult after all.screeches. Firstly we have a large room full of people. I explain. a bit of confusion but I just about get by. Not nice. relaxed a bit. She asks if me or my family are deaf. How strange. save me any more difficulty on my part. clicks. I can’t see it – sorry. It felt very strange.I felt useless. rapidly talking with their hands.sorry. and the place has filled up. even in a fairly safe environment. she’s trying again… Not a great start . but then she goes into conversation. and slightly unsettling at first. Ok. Again? Still can’t see it. I can fingerspell. because there’s no music. I have a safety net . again please? Really sweating now. My face is burning now.hey. totally incompetent. Limited language.very strange to be in the city I’ve grown up in. say again? So she signs it again.now I’ve had a couple of pints. As a hearing person unfamiliar with Deaf Culture. the intonation of bits of words. Twice. a stranger in my own backyard. At the same time it’s actually quite noisy. slowly this time. what can go wrong? Nice lady is being very patient. please just smile and let me walk on? Oh no. it did give me an insight into what it’s like to be part of a minority. Slowly. quick change in confidence . However. Second view of the same situation .if all else fails with sign language. Later on. so hey. but feeling the same as I might on holiday abroad. and decides to fingerspell it for me. All these people. Not so bad. to explain a sign that someone doesn’t know. you can always fingerspell. I’m coming back with the drinks when a woman stops to talk (sign) to me. don’t understand. I could see two quite different social events unfolding in front of me. but this was a terrible start.

The kind. most of them engaged in conversation. Alternatively try brushing your hair or wiping your backside using the other hand (I strongly advise the use of toilet paper for the latter). the same as anyone else. their sense of humour. Or rather we haven’t tried. about people who might be less advantaged than myself in some way. then try to put yourself in the shoes of someone else. as friends. See how difficult it can be to understand? And try doing everyday things with your ‘wrong’ hand. Oh yes.when I first met one particular couple. the selfish. and that conversation was a struggle for me. As with all good friends. the most striking thing about them (as I saw it at the time) was that they were deaf. It’s funny how things change as you are exposed to new situations and experiences . If you haven’t given this too much thought before. so it was different in some ways. and then rewind and watch it again with the sound back on. Different perhaps on the surface. watching the evening news with the sound turned off. others having a real laugh together. all busy. but there was a common factor : people. All of them in there. only most of us can’t imagine. Try walking around your own house blindfolded – not as difficult as you might think. What does it look like now? A room full of people. All the usual character types. the bad and the ugly. But when you look at it from this perspective. Better still watch ten minutes of a video with the sound off. see what it’s like. like swapping your knife and fork around at teatime – stick with it for the whole meal if you can. some in serious discussion. just the same as any other group of people. From experience I can say that you’re in big trouble if a table or chair isn’t in its usual position… Sounds stupid? Maybe. Ok. The joker in the pack. the welcoming and the aloof. and enjoy their company. but just the same underneath. or what impact it had on those affected by hearing loss. mainly about how some people live in very different worlds to that which we usually regard as the ‘norm’. why would it be? That first visit to Deaf Club got me thinking. So give it a go. This made me smile. Often these things are worth doing just 62 . Try. someone facing challenges that are different to yours. Prior to my daughter being born I had never given any thought to deafness. Like a pub with a good atmosphere. We now have a few friends that are deaf. as I hadn’t. It made me think in wider terms. Not an issue at all. Lots of communication going on. and by the way they happen to be deaf. People just going through life.too bad. as well as making me think. and my confidence is returning. for example. the generous. you know the good. but your confidence rapidly disappears when the blindfold goes on. the terminally miserable. I appreciate their opinions.people drinking and talking. but this is how life is for some people. Now I think of them first as people. right around the room .

i.e. are they experienced in other arts? I have to confess that I made this mistake many years ago in a Ju-jitsu class. a degree of kow-towing. of course. he wipes his bum as well! Ha-ha. we need to think of equality as something broader than race. he’s buying the same toilet rolls that we get. They may not of course. but have we got a basic respect for that person irrespective of the colour of their belt? Think about it – the white belt in front of you is totally unknown. and was quite experienced (as I thought at the time). an unspoken code that demands your fawning attention or at the very least. but how do you know? In any event. Clearly I didn’t need to associate any significant threat to this guy. After all. how do we tend to treat a black belt? Remember – it’s not about identical treatment. I was a brown belt. In order to take this whole issue a step further. where they are currently along that path. it may not be a question of whether they have achieved those things yet. They may be in fact be a successful businessman or woman. language or disability. That is. culture. ignoring the more obvious question within the martial arts setting. if not insisted upon. it then takes on a different meaning. and have much to offer you in terms of understanding how to best live life to the full. and whether you can help them along the way. guess what . a different feeling somehow. Hey. but if they have the potential to do so (yes. because we all have).we’re all just people!! 63 . Unfortunately this is often encouraged.look. but suffice to say that I was woken from my day dreaming with a good solid smack in the face! Staying for a moment in the dojo. Applying the terms of martial arts. by many of the instructors themselves. and wasn’t really watching the white belt beginner as he threw a punch towards me.for the experience. how do you treat your instructor? How do you behave towards the visiting 10th Dan Master? This time it is often about their lack of respect for you. the white belt? Come to think of it. for in doing so. Personally I like to think of meeting this 10th Dan Master (or the company director or whoever) away from their territory. how do we all treat the beginner. What a great leveller this is – there’s the boss . they might actually have sussed it all out. I don’t recall what it was that I was thinking about when I should have been concentrating. say in the pub. they may have a big and happy family. or doing the shopping in the local supermarket.

She won the show 64 . leaving only a couple of decent people that I might get along with. I have to say that I no longer hold such views. I know.Many years ago. the British public voted for an overwhelming victory for Nadia – a Portuguese woman who had recently undergone a sex change operation. someone trying to help me out. Perhaps they are just socially unskilled. if I started to pick and choose on the grounds of someone’s colour as well. but it seemed like a reasonable stance at the time. however he felt that I had the rest of it back to front. Fear and ignorance were the main causes (as ever). It is strange to leap forward from that to more recent times. Besides. I would probably now give a bit more consideration to the last two individuals. I have actually been one of those ‘tossers’ at times in the past. Taking this further. he expected to find seven or eight decent ones. and partly because of my own personal growth and development. I had a ‘pub discussion’ with a friend. and deserved a good kicking if they got one. then there would hardly be anyone left to talk to. These days I find that most people do want to get along with each other . Funnily enough I was explaining my own reasons for not discriminating on the grounds of race: because there were so many arseholes on this planet. Of course there are never any guarantees. and perhaps a couple of tossers. but the likelihood is that there is a decent person in there somewhere. and would certainly have appreciated someone trying to make it easier for me. there are always the exceptions. only a few years ago on the TV programme Big Brother.yes. With the benefit of the intervening years. I would now be more inclined to agree with the other guy’s views. partly due to getting older (ripe old age of thirty seven). there would always be about seven or eight ‘tossers’. and it seemed like a reasonable viewpoint at the time! The guy I was talking to agreed that colour shouldn’t be an issue. awkward or lacking in confidence. expecting there might well be a decent person hiding beneath the surface. but for the rest it is simply a matter of finding some degree of respect and understanding. That is to say out of ten people. My own views on equality have changed a great deal over the years. I know… but I was young. where I explained (with the help of several pints) that within any group of ten people. To say that now sounds strange. For example. but it was my view at the age of twenty. Society has also changed significantly since I was a kid – I grew up with the idea that gay men were a disgusting insult to both nature and civilised society.

and could see clearly past the whole gender thing. It is fair to say this could not have happened in the UK ten years earlier. I am also aware that it might turn out to be the kids from next door who I’ve known for years. If however. even with ourselves. So. Without this ability to continually re-assess. or a teenage mum with three young kids (she must be easy. If we were to go back to the obese man. A better example might be the group of teenagers. Come to think of it. but rather suggest that we continue to assess and re-assess.because the public liked her personality and sense of humour. avoidance and threat evaluation. however. as the status of any given situation can change in an instant. and how I said it. that one…). the important things would be what I did. You might say that these thoughts are simply cruel or unkind. If I’m talking down to this guy. but we’re not very honest about it. but I have recognised a potential risk. in fact. I am conscious that my own children will grow up to be 65 . a group of teenagers wearing hooded tops (dodgy looking. so views do seem to be changing. or to allow a clearer assessment. Her view was that we all have in-built prejudices of some sort. what I actually said. however there is a further complication. What I. who could potentially be a real threat. and realised that she was probably right. then I really do have a problem here. must be on drugs…). I can (and should) avoid any conflict. And not just to make a single judgement either. want is to treat my fellow man as well as possible.. where exactly does that leave us? I have to be honest – I’m not aiming at saintliness here. I do sometimes make judgements – it could be a particularly obese man coming out of the chip shop (well there’s no need to let yourself get in that state…). then I am surely headed in the right direction. and will naturally be on a higher state of alert than normal.all of which suggest that it is not only necessary that we make judgements on potential risks. however slowly. However. and that of my loved ones. who looked at me rather sceptically when I stated that I don’t judge people. essential. but suggest that such assessments are. Think of the associations around self-protection – awareness. whilst maintaining both my own safety. I argued against this at the time. I may have taken steps to minimise that risk. we would be left with ‘VICTIM’ written right across our foreheads. the ‘fat man’ label dissolves as soon as we start to speak. Recently I was discussing prejudices with a colleague at work. but later thought about it.

We would all like to be treat fairly throughout our lives. and understand at last that we really can expect to reap exactly what we have sown. especially when it has no bearing on your safety. So. Do be aware of your environment. As for finding a balance. and may also unintentionally intimidate people. about whether your fleeting thought of fat git or druggies makes you a bad person or not. or conversely for not being ‘this’ or ‘that’. It becomes difficult to see how to balance this against my desire to live and let live. see how open minded you become as you start to identify the times when you are making unreasonable assumptions. that’s ok. but don’t let it stop you from enjoying your life. when it comes down to it. the best advice is to not worry too much about the theoretical debates. Instead. there can be no argument with looking after your own safety. without being targeted by others for being ‘this’ or ‘that’. or treating people with respect. Above all else it is important that you concentrate on treating folk as you would have them treat you. The bottom line is fairly simple – there are a lot of people in this world. It follows that we need to get our own house in order before we have the right to expect this from others. 66 . Keep this in mind and you won’t go far wrong. and some of them are different to me. is equality really a minefield? I don’t think so. First things first.teenagers in time. and the potential for risks to your well-being. as long as this doesn’t turn into paranoia. And actually.

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in practice we all know that it is really difficult. complete with knowing smiles that stated that others just don’t understand the pressures. then you have another negative self-fulfilling prophesy on your hands.comparing notes and laughing about it with people in the same position. Taking Back Control Taking back control of a stressful situation can be difficult at the best of times. with their step-by-step guides and ‘revolutionary’ techniques. Sometimes I feel as though I’m in charge.that such and such a situation will be tough. but is that a good enough reason to keep on spoiling your own existence? Not to mention the effect on those that really matter. or difficult to deal with. the only thing you will need to achieve this is an open mind… Following my recent experiences. your family and close friends. It might seem easy when you read some of the self-help books that are available.. what a tough life they’re having – and. They are happy to display this badge of office. And I was happy to endure this as a symbol of (perceived) seniority as some sort of proof of importance. it’s always seemed that way. Maybe this is partly because we’ve all been conditioned in this way – by other people’s experiences. look on with envy. stressful. I speak from personal experience . not anyone else. but then again. True. The world is full of people who will tell you how hard things are. sometimes weak.this is about you and those you love. Well perhaps they don’t. without exaggeration. and it’s harder still if you’re caught up in a downward spiral of problems and anxieties. as an indication of just how strong they must be. I’m still not sure that it has to be all that difficult to take back some degree of control. this seems to be what I’ve always told myself. Until recently I would have sighed the heavy sigh of experience. but at other times like a mass of scars.9. For years. There are also those who proudly wear their stress like a badge. and of course if you believe them. and certainly not the people who are wearing their stress with pride. Even so.I was one of these people in my last job. and bythe media and so on. Not the people who don’t understand. But in practice? Let’s be honest here. And best of all. mentally and emotionally I am battered and bruised. 68 . that your ‘truth’ can be different if you wish. come to think of it. Let’s get one thing straight here . it would be fair to say that. like some sort of exclusive club. by implication. so that others can recognise this supposed strength and congratulate them on it. But now I am beginning to realise that this doesn’t have to be the case. as if proof of what a tough job they have had. and agreed that putting these things into practise can indeed be pretty tough going. or better still. Sometimes I’m strong.

no excitement. to imagine this really has just happened. your mood . When I catch myself letting negative thoughts or feelings take over. No drama. and no doubt they’d be glad of your company along the way. But this is your choice. for starters. namely that of changing your own perspective to something more positive. force yourself to replay some of them in your mind. 69 . assuming of course that you want to be someone. and the choice will always be yours. or running into an old adversary? What about running into an old friend? Try it now. clouding everything and preventing me from seeing things as they really are. not theirs. and think perhaps you can’t just change a mood at will (especially when you might be weighed down by some serious baggage). This could be anything from catching up with an old mate. happier and be increasingly successful in whatever you are doing. so make a habit of it. What about the things that we know have the power to change our moods or emotional states? What about making love? What about alcohol or drugs? What about practising meditation or physical exercise? What about replaying a bad experience in your mind. If you’re still unconvinced. then think for a minute. Enabling yourself to be feel lighter. I picture them as smoke in my mind.this is not Groundhog Day. giving different views of the same mountain. This is not dissimilar to using Yin and Yang. it just quietly drifts away until all is clear. Then in my mind’s eye. ask yourself why you want to change. And most importantly. But in truth this is a nonsense. So what now? How do you move this on? Well. or perhaps something funny that your kids said. A different approach to the same situation. get rid of the negative thoughts. pick one of these and try hard to visualise it. a time when you and your partner got the giggles. I feel a gentle breeze blowing through and clearing the smoke. It can alter your mind. Forget about past attempts that might have failed. you aren’t doomed to automatically repeat your mistakes . So use the good things. anything at all.the change in your current mood and the effect on your state of mind. as mentioned in a previous chapter. You will be surprised at how strongly you can feel this working . however much it might feel that way at times. make sure you at least understand that much.There will always be those who carry this right through to the (early) grave. They will make it sound like the sort of exclusive club you must really want to be a part of.even the rest of your day.

likewise you are not penalised for reading a section more than once. To be more precise. gasping for air. As a result. rather it is created by the way we react to the world around us. 70 . and modify our reactions and attitudes accordingly. where I’m not grasping the meaning or content as well as I was in the previous chapters. and I’m not admitting that to anyone… This is stupid I know. it can feel like my brain has turned upside down. a competition almost. Instead our aim is to change how we interact with the world. Think about it – the goalposts have just moved! No longer is it our aim to stop such situations from occurring. But then I never pick up that same book again. I have read some excellent books in my time. this can radically change our overall experience of any given situation. this has an effect on our own actions and behaviours. as well as those of the people around us. my usual failing is that I skim through the rest of the chapter. knowing that I’m not taking it in. to race to the end as quickly as possible.Back to brass tacks though – how exactly is any of this different from the original well-intentioned advice of ‘just get on with it’ or ‘pull yourself together’? The main difference is that we have now accepted responsibility for our own actions and thoughts. and is flopping about. Happens to me on a regular basis! When I hit this stage in a book. If this should happen while you are reading this book. our moods and feelings. and that the biggest single cause of both stress and anxiety is in fact ourselves. or even to avoid those situations. do I? Because that would be like admitting that I’m not intelligent enough to grasp it at first take. and the valuable lessons remain inside. a series of missed opportunities. There is no prize for finishing first. then please avoid the temptation to follow my poor example. This immediately becomes exciting… If we now understand that we can change how we react to external events. then it follows that we can target specific issues that regularly seem to create stress or anxiety. we have seen that stress is not created by the external world around us. I don’t want to go back and re-read. In doing so. this is probably the part where a book might start to lose me. but I’ve done it so many times. knowing that I‘m missing something of value. we don’t create it directly. but when I start to struggle. If I think back to some of the self-help books I have read in recent years. In short. The rest of the book then becomes a rush. Trouble is.

What . a clarity of vision that makes life feel so much lighter. we can say that our experiences in life are heavily influenced (at least) by our own attitude and approach. and end up ‘fire-fighting’. This potential is incredibly powerful – once you open your mind to it you can feel an awakening. and one that we’ve all fallen for… When you look at it. As David R. Best of all.happiness and fulfilment become things that can be found within ourselves. not to mention the anxiety that often comes with it. waiting for you to tap into it. Hawkins says in his wonderful book Power vs. there is no such thing as a right or wrong time. Once you get your head around this stage of thinking. if you like. Force . reacting 71 . All you have to do is choose your path. inside your own head. These are the kind of statements that you can find at the heart of spiritual teachings across the globe. isn’t it? Perhaps even more astounding is the thought that we might not actually need to take control at all.we start with a perceived need to have control over external events. rather than ‘out there’ someplace.and it’s accessible? To you and me? No need for hours of meditation.happiness and fulfilment become things that can be found within ourselves. It becomes hard to understand how you’ve never seen this before… Astounding.Going back to the ability to change our experience of a given situation – if we follow this train of thought a little further. The dawning realisation that this ‘need for control’ might turn out to be the biggest lie of all. We find ourselves less able to cope with the ups and downs of life. the need to have control over our surroundings actually ends up controlling us. Let’s work this through . we can access this without leaving the armchair.our birthright. The liberation that we’re talking about is already there. as taught throughout the centuries. Wow. then your perspective suddenly and dramatically shifts. Better still. Our consistent (and inevitable) ‘failure’ to achieve the desired level of control leads us to feel helpless. Right there inside each and every one of us . powerless within our own lives. Read that last line again . this is the sort of stuff that wise men down the centuries have been saying. rather than ‘out there’ someplace. in fact you can start right now if you wish. or living up a mountain as a recluse? You mean we really can access this stuff? The simple answer is an emphatic YES. All of the potential is there.

overcome the obstacles in front of you. Nothing wrong with this. No waiting until your energy levels are up. but if we keep going. But try. as life would be chaotic and stressful without many of these routines. this can become dull sometimes.to each new situation or crisis. unable to step back and take a balanced view. Now you’re wading through treacle once again. and that only a little while ago it all seemed so easy. Why do we need to feel that we are in control of everything? Most of us like to have routine in our lives . but now it’s become much too difficult. impressed upon us by our immediate environment. but we generally need an awful lot of routine in order to manage our busy lives. but hidden within the need for structure and order are a number of less welcome developments. Fear of the unknown creeps in. Those who have passed this way before will sometimes show you the true path. and the inspiration has gone. We’ve grown up around this. Perhaps all of this is avoidable. Creativity is stifled. to the extent that you lose sight of what those wise men and women were saying. Some of this is doubtless for our own well-being. But you’re soon dragged back down. and their words cut right through the crap that you’ve allowed to build up around you. an over reliance on the known.yes. A dependency starts to grow. no drama. without all the internal wrangling and spiralling doubts? What if you could simply take off this millstone that says ‘you must have control’. Now. and become a better and more fulfilled person by doing so? Not very likely is the answer. You know what you were going to do. no huge build up. you will stride out into the unknown to face those challenges. because it becomes too difficult. It is likely that much of this is about learnt behaviours and dependencies. what is the likelihood of you taking a chance? That despite your selfimposed shackles. on the things that are ‘safe’. and just do it? Imagine – no fuss. where does it lead? Our need for routine and structure seems to be in-built to a certain extent. an impossible weight to carry. guess what – you can! 72 . Well. At times you can see the simplicity of it all. But what if you didn’t have this mountain to climb? What if you could just go directly from point A to point B. Well. and as a result we don’t even see it. until you’re in the right mood or the conditions are perfect? None of that – imagine if you could just set your sights and go do it. perhaps all of this is unnecessary. on our routines.

So let’s not bother trying to take back control, instead let’s use what we have already learnt to apply this idea of ‘not needing control’.

In an earlier chapter, I mentioned that I once had an absolute belief that I could overcome whatever might be holding me back, that I would always find a way. It would be true to say that this belief brought me through some real difficult periods, more or less in one piece. But although that might sound like a rock-solid approach, there is an inbuilt flaw, and a serious one at that. An ingrained faith that you will win the fight, often just reinforces the self-made belief that these are difficult times, even that there is a fight to be had.

The other day I unexpectedly bumped into a friend’s dad, someone I hadn’t seen for quite some time. We chatted for a while, and then at one point he laughed and said you have to keep on fighting - when you stop fighting, it’s all over. He was part-joking, but it was also a reference to his own attitude. A few days later and I’m thinking about this. I always had a similar approach, but now I’m starting to see that by always being ready to fight or to do battle, to wave two fingers at the world, the establishment or whoever – this attitude and readiness brings with it an expectation of conflict. In turn this influences your thoughts and actions, and means that you are more likely to bring this conflict about, to make this a part of reality. Despite the fact that your conscious mind would say that this is not a desired outcome.

When I first became aware of this, I made a conscious effort to give up ‘being strong’. I let go of the attitude that had got me through my adult life to that point, and became ‘nothing’. Not weak, not useless, but without strength, without preset views of what a victory looked like. Or indeed without looking for any sort of victory at all. I just ‘was’.

To be honest it was quite alarming at first, like I’d lost a part of me. The part that I knew that I could depend on, that I’d always had faith in. Thankfully this feeling soon passed, and I began to find that I was ‘observing’ myself, as if from outside. Now that I was no longer on autopilot and had stopped using what had almost become preset responses to situations, I could see changes in my own reactions and behaviours - it was amazing to see how many battles just evaporated in front of my eyes. If you don’t take part in a battle, then mentally there is no battle. If the outcome, the perceived need for victory is no longer significant, then how exactly can you lose? A victory is

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there within this ‘softer’ approach, but as no-victory. You do win, but in a different way, by not buying into this, by neither chasing victory nor fearing defeat. This gives you a totally different perspective, which will then set you free. You are no longer driven or governed by the things that restrict the majority of the population. As a result your thinking becomes freer, and your outlook becomes much broader, both of which then feed into your priorities and actions.

However, there was a drawback. What I seemed to lose was the strict self control, the selfdiscipline that had been built over years in the gym and the dojo. This had all tied in with being strong and ready to do battle, so when I let go of this strength, I felt as though I was going into freefall. It took a while to adjust, but after this adjustment period, things seemed to be ok, or at least as far as I could tell… It was only later, however, did I realise that some of the things I had relied on for years, such as my self-will and self-discipline, had apparently vanished. Along with this softer approach had come weaknesses that I wasn’t prepared for, and although I realised that I did need to let go of my strength, I also acknowledged that this new stage was not an end or solution in itself. It was, rather, a necessary step, but one that was simply a platform from which to grow.

In truth, there is a need to regain control of some sorts. However, the way to achieve this is by not needing control. To win without winning, to fight without fighting. As frustrating these paradoxes can seem, don’t make the mistake of thinking that one thing must be right, therefore the other must be wrong. Instead these are usually different parts of a much bigger picture. It is often the case that we have not yet reached the point where we have the perspective needed to bring this into proper focus, to see the wider picture where such complications and paradoxes no longer exist. But our lack of vision doesn’t change what is there to be seen. The wider view of things, the clichéd ‘bigger picture’ was and always will be there, waiting for our vision to clear. When we realise this, it becomes easier to accept both sides of these apparent paradoxes as being simply the way it looks to us now, at our current level of understanding and consciousness. Then you will not waste any more time dwelling on these matters, nor will you choose a false path by trying so hard to force a ‘right’ decision.

As you start along this part of your journey, you will begin to find that you just know. It’s like being weightless – however odd you might find some of this, however it matches (or doesn’t) with your current beliefs, just try approaching this with an open mind. Stop making judgment values, stop

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doubting, stop being rational. Simply stop thinking, try this for a day or two, and see where it takes you. Sure you will be pulled back into rational thinking (old habits really do die hard), but persist, gently put yourself back on track, and enjoy the journey.

Stick with this mindset, even when you start to drop back down into your normal life, and I promise you that nothing will ever seem the same again. And it feels good. Slightly strange at first, but exhilarating, and every bit of it positive. But don’t just take my word for it, go and explore this for yourself.

*Reproduced from Power vs. Force by David R. Hawkins, by kind permission of Veritas Publishing.

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of searching out our personal weaknesses. development of the mind and the expansion of perception were key aspects of their studies. Exploration of the self. Human weaknesses were also studied. these ‘mountain ascetics’ were in fact mystics. To examine this. Their recorded history spans some nine centuries. there is also a much deeper meaning to the term ‘Shadow Warrior’. both in others. Outside the castle walls. unseen… Although there is some truth in this. and also looking within. The teachings of these schools have been passed down through generations. let alone hundreds of years later.hardly surprising given that little was known about them at the time. and are indeed still practised today. about to infiltrate the enemy stronghold. silent and deadly. The word itself stirs up a powerful image. Usually taken to mean some blackhooded guy. Despite the all too common misunderstandings.. the study of the ways of nature and the universe were to continue. And generally a sneer or worse from the average martial arts practitioner. The forefathers of what eventually became known as the ninja. we first need to look at the origins of the Ninja. and the ways and intentions of the universe. and one which is very relevant to our journey of personal growth. From this we can take one meaning of the term ‘Shadow Warrior’ to be that of facing our own shadows and demons. often accompanied by a smile or snigger from the average person. One of the most common terms used in connection with the Ninja. much of which is shrouded in mystery .survival and enlightenment. And then bringing those 76 . were not originally concerned with martial strategies or combat techniques at all . Shadow Warriors The infamous Ninja warriors are surely the stuff of myth and legend. however little is actually known about the Ninja. known for their intuitive understanding of nature. Although this was later changed to incorporate the martial skills necessary for survival. Prior to this. For the sake of credibility I need to say that there are only three genuine Ninja Ryu (with proven lineage) remaining in the world today. these schools and their teachings essentially consider two things . and bear little resemblance to the Hollywood-type images that we have all seen.10.these studies were only introduced when it became necessary for the survival of their families. is that of Shadow Warrior. blending in with the dark. The word Ninja conjures up a variety of images.

but after a long and sustained effort. of letting go of all pride and vanity. The second heart is kept for those who are really close to us. Or even as good as you might like to think. that eats away at our self-image. The secret heart contains our darker thoughts. and holds many things that are deeply personal. fear. that simply knows the truth in these matters. to expose them and start to work with them. If you struggle to face up to your own pride then you will continue to pretend that it isn’t there. The side that always dwells on the negative. There is always a part of us that knows.the difficulty of starting to admit to yourself that actually. This doesn’t exactly mean finding our inner Darth Vader. To do this. Again and again. you can successfully kid yourself for a while. anger. Although these weaknesses manifest themselves in a myriad of different ways. but the honest voice of self awareness will pipe up at some stage. Total eradication might ultimately be an impossible task. and shows only our most public side.guilt. those which are not only kept hidden from others. is that of self-honesty. It felt good to know that when my ego did occasionally pop up 77 . If we are to grow and evolve. The third heart. my ego gradually shrunk to the point where it had little control over my thoughts or actions. etc. Yes. forbidden desires and unspoken motives. however deep down. you’re not quite as good as you might like others to think. and made a conscious effort to starve my own ego of the attention it craved. The part of our personality that allows the weaknesses of the human condition to grow and fester . as ever. but however deep we try to bury this. Many things may seem to prevent us from taking these steps. but which are often kept from our own conscious mind. that is. is for ourselves alone. I took this to heart some time ago. The first heart is on display for all to see. it still exists. the secret heart. or whether you push this down and bury it again. we need to consider our ‘dark side’ for a moment. but I have to say that it isn’t as difficult as you might think. you can be sure that we all have them. But it comes back up. There is an old Japanese saying that a man has three hearts. It is up to you whether you stop and listen. The major obstacle on this path is that of your own pride . is that of abandoning the ego.weaknesses out into the light. but rather locating that darker side of our minds and personalities. The first step. then it is vital that the secrets of the third heart are also brought out into the bright light of self-honesty. revenge. A concept that is found within most martial philosophies.

then where does that essential self-belief come from? Otherwise. a challenge? All right. some pride. after all surely the perils of being ego-driven are plain for all to see? You might have thought so.. This gave me real freedom. and some ego. Not only does he have the technical knowledge. how would they be 78 . but unfortunately there are plenty of examples for us to consider. but is my senior in every way in the field of martial arts. In addition. one thing that they all appear to share is some serious self-belief about their own abilities. All very positive. expected to survive a battle. So arrogance? We might have hit on something here.and voice an opinion. but then that doesn’t quite seem to fit. we can safely say that he does not lack technical ability. But if we have no ego (or virtually none). he possesses an instinctive. There is a question that comes up during our conversation do either of us have sufficient confidence and ability to actually use the techniques that we have spent so long practising? Would we be able to perform these techniques in a real life situation. some arrogance. and it meant I was better placed to make more of the right decisions in my life. Most of us can see that this would not be healthy. it is hardly a good thing to be driven by one’s ego. I would be able to recognise it for what it was. but he still airs a quiet confidence. It seems difficult to nail down exactly what causes this. or in defence of my reputation. from any era. and I’m sharing a couple of beers with a friend called Jeff. Frustrating. Surely there can’t be a downside to this. sweat and tears (literally) in the dojo. The clarity this brought was amazing. and meant I no longer had to react to people and situations because of my pride. a Canadian guy who was then living in England.I can only train and train in the hope of getting somewhere close to this. Jeff is more than a decade younger than I am. he is well clued-up on of the effects of adrenalin in it’s various disguises.? A few years on. in perhaps a sudden and unexpected violent encounter? It quickly became apparent that despite years of blood. Though fairly young. In my friend’s case. effortless movement. Looking at warriors from any part of the world. This guy might be fairly laid back. we both still lacked confidence in the prospect of a live situation. and very empowering. an ambush. in most walks of life. but he also has a keen understanding of awareness and avoidance. Can there. So what is missing? At first we think it’s confidence. with no visible arrogance (despite his ability).

And in a conflict scenario. there is no room for doubt. to be always looking ahead. and lead us off on to false paths. however hard you try.How can we expect to have the confidence required to get us through the life threatening encounter. Once you adjust to your new surroundings. another stage. but it’s never the case. One thing you can be sure of. or successes along the way. Indeed. In itself this can cause doubts. the next step is (paradoxically) to start building the ego back up. Perhaps instead we ought to allow yourselves little time to reflect on achievements. It’s a funny old journey . but offers a lift. You can also be sure that it never.every time you make progress you can think that you’ve ‘made it’. is that there is always another step. as if there are little rewards for our endeavours. In addition. Although we continue to push on with what we believe to be right. taking this time also helps to start building the allimportant self-belief.but when you get there. Allow yourself to say well done. but rarely feel any sense of achievement. the scary job interview or whatever else gives us the wobbles? A trait typical of those interested in self improvement. you then realise this is just another stage. in order to keep this belief alive. All the apparent confidence and ability in the world is virtually worthless when the pressure comes on. always thinking about the next steps. a good feeling that can help to provide the energy and motivation for those next steps. those ‘seekers on the path’. ever gets dull! 79 . So having starved the ego down to virtually nothing. without which you will struggle to grow and advance. And like it or otherwise. This is not only natural. to give yourself a pat on the back. growth and personal enlightenment . The process of shrinking or starving the ego is absolutely essential if you are to seriously address self improvement. or the non-violent conflict that we dread. We appear. rather. there has to have a degree of ego in there. we sometimes feel flat. Another stage to be mastered. without this self-belief you will always be lacking the conviction that is so vital. your new perspective. is that we often can’t see what we have achieved thus far. perhaps even indulge in a moment of pride. unless you have a solid foundation of self-belief. and then left behind. To a controlled point. are never satisfied with our progress to date. then the next steps will become apparent to you.

Back to the traditions of the Shadow Warriors . hitting them so hard that the threat is removed. How do you win? Maybe it is by knocking the guy out. Then you end up on the floor. richer. that’s one view. stronger. winning is often thought to mean knocking your attacker unconscious. How important do the contents of your wallet seem now? Exactly how does this feel like you have won? The Ninja ideal of winning is to survive. and in effect the lives of those close to me. in the reality of a violent confrontation. Putting this into context. Let’s suppose the scenario is that you are approached by two guys. 80 . where a stronger or faster athlete beats a weaker or slower competitor. being tougher. including yourself.another concept associated with the Ninja. Sod the wallet. and manage bringing up your children without you. fondly refer to them as the ‘art of winning’! This is not the notion of winning that we commonly aspire to in the Western world. and usually looks good doing it. that never should have been. Practitioners of these arts however. seriously wounded. alive. So many things said. cheating or somehow unfair. Nor is it being perceived as ‘better’ than those around you. but what if he cuts you before going down? Then again his accomplice might have stuck his own blade into you whilst you were busy dealing with the first guy. never-miss strikes or failsafe moves. There is no other agenda. and ask again – how do we win? What should we do? How else might we approach this? Don’t think I am about to give you a list of 100% reliable options. Just to survive. but it is important that we recognise it as only one of the options. How your partner feels. I would win by being able to walk through the door of my home a few minutes later. From this perspective we can look at the scenario again. wondering what the kids will say in the morning when Daddy didn’t come home. is their idea of ‘winning’. left to live life alone. no need to prove anything to anyone. So many things left unsaid. back into the arms of my family. never thought that someone might rob me of forty years of my life. Having encountered a violent. Never expected it to end like this. potentially life threatening situation. low-down. having a bigger house or better car. Instead look at the main objective again – to win. So much time wasted. Indeed the Bujinkan arts have been accused by others of being dirty. Not knowing whether it is fatal or just a bleeder. someone has stolen my life. There aren’t any. Well. I don’t disagree with this. When they realise that Daddy is never coming home. no need to look good doing it. one of whom pulls out a knife and shouts at you to give him your money.

To do this. don’t be put off. fear and anger that you have. or not to use that isolated short-cut to the shops. In this instance you make the choice between curling up and taking it (whatever it turns out to be). then forget everything else and make this your focus for a few days. Get this right and you will only need to concentrate on two things. Secondly. the less likely it is that you will escape. Whatever else you do. whatever you tell others.after all. it is essential that your primary focus at this point is inward-looking . This chapter concerns the idea of facing your own shadows and demons. you have chosen not to frequent the local ‘rough’ pub. actually. once you have identified those issues. If you are prone to kidding yourself. However. and accept that could mean trying more than once. then you must do so with every ounce of strength. the best general advice would be to either hand over your wallet. if you are always to be defeated by yourself. as without self-honesty you are lost. and finding new ways to ‘win’. Your choices have ensured that you are not in the wrong place at the wrong time – this is also winning. Better still. or they may want more than your money. to turn and run. or you fight. I do have a problem with (whatever it is). As with most things. then what are the odds for facing external pressures and difficulties? As tough as this might sound. perhaps more than you are prepared to give. and is far preferable to facing a violent attacker. In the example used above. and say out loud. by living your life with a good awareness of potential risks. If you choose to fight. if a situation should unfold without warning.the attack may be on top of you too quickly. channel this into a few frenzied seconds. And how can we bridge the gap between this confrontation and the sanctuary of home? In truth it is likely to be different each time. and then take the first escape route that becomes open. Firstly – self-honesty. or if you have the time and space (and a reasonable level of physical fitness). it is simplified by an open mind and a no-nonsense approach. Concentrate on it until you are able to look yourself in the mirror.This really is winning. 81 . then you must have the intention to do something about it. it might be that you are not able to run . Never stay and fight longer than you have to – the longer you stay in the situation. make sure you do not bullshit yourself.

82 .A lot more than once.

and that actually.is it really that easy? An honest answer would be that when you keep your mind clear and in the present.11. This is just human nature. and I could really see that actually I can do anything. But don’t kid yourself here. that drink. When I arrived at that moment a while ago. ‘That’ Moment When trying to break out of a cycle of negative behaviour or habits. Ridiculously easy. and the funniest thing is that it was all so easy. knowing that you shouldn’t. you are better than this. and don’t have to carry on behaving this way. melted away into nothing. it is easy. because all of this existed only inside my head. or are just my perceptions of what other people might think. this is not spontaneity . Usually you will let the moment pass. What you have to remember is 83 . you know that moment existed. It’s false. But even so. so simple that it seemed ridiculous to think I have let these things affect my life for so long. This is the moment when you can sense that the options are being weighed up. This may well be down to habits and well established routines. there really are no limits. back into the reality of day-to-day life. and go on and have that argument. A choice that will effectively be made for you if you think for too long without acting.this is a choice. At that moment it was so easy that it was inconceivable that these things could ever cloud my judgement or get in the way again. I told myself that none of the pressures existed. When you strip things right down. all of it. and realises that you could stop this. And nowhere else. I took a deep breath and told myself that none of the thoughts in my head were real. so easy. All of it. you knew the moment was there. ingrained behaviours or even history repeating itself. Before you know it. A surreal moment followed where it all just fell away. the internal arguments and downwards spirals will keep coming. At this moment I had more clarity than at any other point in my life. But it does need working at. This is the point when the ‘new and enlightened you’ catches the negative thoughts. But back on planet Earth. escapes the spiral for a few moments. All of the limitations are either ones I have placed there myself. you will have missed the moment and by default will follow what’s gone before. and there was no predetermined outcome. as the thoughts. that the future is somehow being written. then yes. that smoke or whatever. Anything at all. and that is all the potential you need to make changes in your life. Even if you didn’t act. the most opportune moment is when that moment arrives.

so why spoil things by worrying too much about the future? I’m not sure when I last felt any serious anxieties. It’s no longer just a fleeting moment that disappears if I hesitate. then say out loud – well done. Things feel fantastic now. now it stays for longer. Put into that perspective. although now that I think about it. I remember where I was a few short months ago. And then I stop. will build your strength.that every time you get a grip. I find myself taking this route more and more often. Result? Once again I have more time to make the right decision. Stop thinking. and realise that it’s enough just to be free.. as some of it still needs to be ‘dealt with’ at times. and I’m able to reflect on this. for now I am happy to sit back 84 . Although this seemed weird at first. Maybe it doesn’t matter too much where I’m going. The whole process is more relaxed. and now you have the chance to think and act differently. large or small. In a way it is almost building itself – positive leads to positive leads to positive. to take the positive route. That’s all. A few weeks on. Life does carry on around me. of decisions being made – that part goes on hold. just stop. The complete opposite of the vicious circles that have held me back for years. I’ve done good there. it’s more obvious now. but I got control of that one. you’ve won just by realising. because this is more time wasted. What I’m starting to find is that although this ‘moment’ does keep appearing. and in doing so will make the next time easier to handle. And of course because it’s becoming easier. And when you do get bogged down in the negative stuff? Don’t worry. And as for where this is going. where it’s taking me.. you become stronger. Every success. more energy-sapping arguments that exist only inside your head. it has gradually become a normal part of my life. but the feeling of the future being written. and it stays for a while. but it is certainly nowhere near the debilitating levels that I was living with a sort time ago. almost as if someone hits the pause button for a few minutes. Same with the stress – not such a dramatic change. And the best bit is that you don’t ever need to beat yourself up when it goes wrong. Sometimes I wonder exactly where all of this is going. I actually did alright there. it feels better and better to be alive. It was hard at first. STOP. those feelings seem to have stopped coming.

but generally don’t. I am not talking about a fearless mountain climber here. After all. For example. She’s up and about that same day. the most common reason for allowing these moments to pass us by is a lack of courage. Funnily enough. brave deep-sea diver. upset and drawn in. wanting to play with (and look after) the ‘poorly children’. but seem to crop up more often. living in a wonderful world. Not panicking when he vomits in his sleep at 3am. Then there’s the three year old in hospital for major surgery. leaving you frozen like a rabbit in the headlights. and then beat yourself up afterwards. These are much less dramatic. to see real-life examples that I could learn from. where everything is exciting and free. wobbling up and down the ward. or a big. it’s one thing to be brave at a time you have planned and prepared for. but instead examples of true courage in an ordinary life setting. Short of bottle.and enjoy the ride. In fact. especially the younger ones. I began to look for examples of real courage. It’s a kind of magical mystery tour. the oxygen mask filling up with sick because his dad wasn’t quick enough. but they’re in crisis right now and can’t cope with so many conflicting needs. However hard they might be trying. sometimes it’s like being a kid again. Somehow keeping his cool when most adults would have freaked out. and hot vomit is running out around his head. less obvious times that might also be one of ‘those moments’. it usually follows that you’re never quite sure why you didn’t deal with it better. Very 85 . The biggest examples that I found turned out to have one thing in common – they all involved children. Left managing their own emotional turmoil. because you are disappointed. but never understanding properly. including drilling into her back of the skull. but quite different when the twists and turns of life catch you unprepared.I guess. Not panicking when his air supply is cut off. It occurred to me recently that there are other. embarrassed or even angry with yourself for not having dealt with things better. Sometimes this will go around and around and around in your head for the rest of the night. the quiet courage shown by the six year old having to sleep with an oxygen mask strapped to his face. The times when you know you should speak. I wanted to find inspiration and motivation. These incidents can be anything from small-scale petty right through to the major life-changing variety. through his hair and clothes. should interrupt or take the initiative. And also their brothers and sisters who wait at home. Lacking moral fibre. Sometimes you bite your lip and let the moment pass. because mum and dad might be trying their best. Irrespective of the scale. After some reflection on my own experiences and shortcomings.

and guiltily hope that it has no lasting effect on her. Though perhaps less so as they get older. growing up too quick. Don’t think this is a reference to some dodgy Yuletide telly programme. I am the dad that wasn’t quick enough. This is not meant to take anything away from the children themselves . My own kids have some degree of faith. but we adults are often left struggling? One of the main reasons seems to be that our children generally hold faith that the adults are largely in control of the situation. someone that they trust.I think they are absolute stars. and the feeling that someone else is in control. taking charge of things. trying to sound cool and calm whilst panicking like hell inside. however it is quite enlightening to understand how this works. But now I have to stand back and ask why? Why is it that young kids can demonstrate such levels of bravery and courage in terrible situations. because there is someone else involved. As they see it. 86 . that was stroking the sick-covered hair. taking on board confusion and upset.young kids struggling. then as long as I sound like I really mean it. It is much easier to have the necessary courage when you have this level of trust. Much closer. And I am the dad that wondered (and still do) at the way my youngest has handled all of this and more in her little life. I know for sure that I wasn’t as brave as my kids were at these moments. This is closer to home. with Rolf or Cilla visiting poorly kids in hospital on Christmas Day . the buck stops with someone else. especially in a crisis situation – so if I tell them it is going to be ok. this is very much the case for younger children. This is real courage. The bottom line of course is that this isn’t their responsibility. and just having to accept it. This is a different kind of courage. but disappears when you change channels for something less disturbing. all three of them were out of this world – each of them showing bravery and strength beyond their years.the sort of thing that gets you in the heart and throat. I am the dad that looked on with pride and wonder as my bandaged daughter wobbled off down the ward to look after the ‘poorly’ kids. All the attention is on the older brother/sister in the hospital. then they will accept this at face value. Children are usually able to do this. but the ripples affect so many others. If I say things are alright and there’s no need to panic. then it probably is.

but is instead something that we can use to build our own capabilities. Probably the only time I would advocate hiding from the truth of a situation. then you place an unspoken expectation that your actions will live up to this. of biting off more than you can chew. and we often have little faith that things will work out. whether we choose to acknowledge it or not.it is sensible to employ a little caution. Not only for others. Also. with the inevitable come-backs of told you so. it often leads to failure.. you must not let this hold you back too much . then you can’t be disappointed when things don’t work out. pretend. This wonderful potential resides within us all. and who do you think you are? At the same time. When we do this. in turn propels you beyond the limits of your comfort zone. building our strength and resilience. If you appear to know what you are doing. As a result they will react more positively. It helps bridge the gap between knowing that the moment is there. then others are more likely to believe in you. Sometimes it would be nice. that which is within each one of us whether we can see it or not. to be entirely capable. The buck does stop with us. telling us that everything is going to be alright. and short of courage as a result. if you don’t expect too much. After all. just waiting to be uncovered. but also for yourself. we usually hold the responsibility ourselves. disguising itself as the sensible 87 .As adults. This is an exceptionally practical piece of advice. The expectation that your actions will lead to the positive outcomes that you are portraying in your ‘role play’.lacking in faith. then where do we go from here? How do we build on these shaky foundations? A colleague at work has a saying pinned up in front of her desk: Be brave. If you don’t feel brave.? As adults. No-one else can tell the difference. there are very few who have anyone feeding us with positive messages. once you have established this ‘alleged’ confidence. so we ‘protect’ ourselves by expecting a negative outcome. enabling you to make more of a success of your chosen endeavour. if this is where were are . and taking that first step. One word of warning though . especially for yourself. as there is a risk of overcommitting. So. Many of us are worn down and jaded by life’s let-downs and disappointments.that would be fear. We need to be clear that this ‘hiding’ is not about fooling other people. This is a major step towards living up to our potential. right.

They knew that I knew that they knew. even embarrassed for me when I found myself left high and dry without a clue. I decided to role-play. What I hadn’t twigged immediately was that they wanted me to act according to my role. In addition. Granted. but in those first few months I was winging it. a nurse. under the surface. but you know it’s there. as well as the more obvious weaknesses. In the first place.based on past experiences with my own managers. My first experience of ‘pretending’ in this way came when I made the step up from ‘worker’ to ‘supervisor’ . they all knew that I had no experience as a manager.voice of caution. a dentist or a policeman. even though they knew otherwise. There might not have been any outward sign of hostility or resentment. and for that to 88 . Worse still if I admitted it. It doesn’t matter what the specifics are – it could be a manager. only to be beaten to the post. There is a balance that must be struck here. but they all knew that I was making it up as I went along. When I realised this. so this was a step taken within the same team. Think about it – don’t you have a predefined role in mind for each of these? What I realised was that people wanted me to play the part. Of course. one or two of these guys had gone for the same job. had become my working material.I took over my boss’ job when he moved on. how to act. for the most part they were quite supportive. a mechanic. I tried to do a lot of listening. a mother. and especially how to speak to the people around me. a teacher. the guys in the team wanted me to behave in a manner that they associated with the manager’s role. I realised that the guys were sometimes uncomfortable. a plumber. the same as you guys. These were the things I would have to work with. I set out to understand the strengths in what was already in place. to guess . but on the other hand. both good and bad. in order to be comfortable. especially their feeling and opinions. Work out what to do. Despite all of this. and consciously avoided the temptation to immediately stamp my own impression on things. and everyone knew it. On one hand it was great that I already had a good relationship with most of the team. I’m just a worker. to behave like a real manager. In effect those people. if you see what I mean. to pretend. as I no longer had the excuse of hey. I wouldn’t be able to do this if people weren’t comfortable. mould and flow with in order to achieve any decent results – quite a change of perspective from my previous life as a ‘worker’. As the weeks passed. so you must be sure to find the middle ground.

When you do find yourself in what might seem to be a difficult situation. week by week. or alternatively. Instead of continuing to act out this role endlessly. And a sense of humour. to meet their need for a familiar routine. this is fine. as you are not aware of the change until some time later. day by day. but this was actually building me up. although I didn’t realise at the time just how important it is. to act more confidently in unknown situations. then more growing confidence. Yes.all it takes is persistence. But it can be done. there was room for individual style. This can be a little strange. that we have to actively re-train our subconscious mind.so much of our behaviour is ingrained. They are well aware that I don’t know what I’m doing. but rather. Although as time passes. Permanently. So we start to play along. which in turn led to more positive outcomes. that it has changed you as a person. it often helps to think in the third person – as if someone other than yourself is dealing with things. you either reach a point where you can’t keep up the pretence anymore – usually because you have chosen to act in a way that is too far removed from your own personality to be sustainable. And it feels strange. but are happy for us to carry on with the pretence. and to appear both relaxed and decisive whilst secretly trying not to panic. and people become uncomfortable. This is a very effective way to make positive changes . The basic requirement was to avoid playing the role of the well-intentioned (but disastrous) new manager . You eventually realise that you have played the role of (let’s say) a more confident and decisive person for so long. it isn’t all that hard to do . my confidence grew. you have actually become a more confident and decisive person. you will find this happens less and less. And best of all.hey. After a while. but the basics needed to be covered – change too much too quickly. because you then automatically pick up the role-play and start consciously acting again. As I gained more positive experiences. we all know I don’t really know what I’m doing here…. I wasn’t aware at the time. In the situation above 89 . Although at times you might feel the ‘new you’ starting to disappear. as it creates a more comfortable situation for everyone. to take on a life of it’s own. and the result of being a certain way or reacting in a particular manner for so many years. I was fortunate enough to recognise this fairly early. this began to feed itself. and so on – you get the picture. the line between pretence and reality starts to blur.happen they needed me to act out the role of a ‘proper’ manager.

Equally it could be someone that you respect and admire from a distance – a writer. Alternatively.for example. resolute. which study different aspects of human nature in isolation from the whole. and is tough. immoveable. a bold decisive character who takes responsibility in their stride.a friend. without crumbling under the perceived pressure. teacher. and how any apparent negatives might sometimes be positive. who makes strong decisions without fear. but is still standing and living life to the full. you could think of this in terms of summoning up a more confident ‘you’. in Mikkyo (The Japanese Diamond and Lotus Tradition)* the character named Kongosatta has the ability to see clearly. once you have found the right person to model your behaviour upon. they will ‘call up’ a character (not a god) that epitomises the positive aspects of a given area of study. Meditative study enables a deeper understanding of all aspects of a particular attribute. beyond the obvious. Importantly. a rock climber. For example. you must allow them to remain human. In addition. when you start to wobble? Would you have liked to be able to summon up someone solid. This 90 . That is to say don’t make the mistake of expecting perfection from them. These characters are actually no more than a reflection of our own unexplored capabilities. then you might try a different approach one that helps many people is to find a role-model. family member or work colleague. something to help steel yourself when you start to waver? It would have helped me at many times in the past. It could be someone you already know . although it is often useful to see them as something external that we can ‘call up’ when needed. and grasp the essential essence of a situation. who has the ability to see beyond face value. with a focus on both the positive and negative sides of an emotion or character trait. taken a few hard knocks. Another example would be Kokuzo. if that should feel uncomfortable for you. Fudo Myo-oh characterises righteousness. to take a detached scientific view of a situation. don’t build them up in your imagination to be some god-like figure that can do no wrong. martial arts instructor. Ideally this would be someone who has been through some difficulties in their life. painter or whatever. but it must be someone that you respect. that has a positive influence on you. how it affects our lives. This is not a million miles away from the approach of some Buddhist traditions. This person could be anyone. Have you ever felt that you could do with some help when you are feeling weak. and vice versa. Forget about the odd-sounding names and think for a moment about what these characters represent.

instead the right way is one of small steps. I have to say that cliché or otherwise. When you have built someone up this way.would surely lead to disappointment.mvmeditation. Building up hopes of absolute perfection will only lead to disappointment and misery. So pick the right influences. in tune with the proper flow of things – this is something you can count on. They can guide you to make the right choices and help to build your inner strength and beliefs. it almost feels like a betrayal to find out that they are just a person after all. See website atwww. without you becoming too attached (or borderline obsessive!). whether directly or indirectly. rather than on the expectation of rewards. *Acknowledgements to Action Meditation by Stephen K. It is not about arriving at some glorious destination. always moving always stepping forward. as it gives you somewhere to check-in when things get tough . and keep sight of the fact that this drive for personal improvement and development is continuous. but allow them to remain imperfect – that way a good role model can help you.org 91 . Finding a positive role model is very empowering. and help you to grow into yourself. However potent these different approaches can be. that they still have their failings. it is important that we also retain our perspective. Hayes. Never grinding to a halt. but never being distracted long enough to stray off the path. The rewards will come along in their own time. in truth there isn’t one. This includes the acceptance of occasional failures.a reference point and a much needed source of inspiration. by kind permission. life really is about the journey. rather than trying to become a carbon copy of your ‘hero’. There never was. and therefore allow your focus to be on each step of the way ahead. Use their positive influence to help shape what you already have. Satisfaction in life truly comes from our experiences along the way. whatever the speed. of continually moving forwards. big or small.

Catching up. and my head is out of the passenger side window. Things often seem far from straightforward when you take the step from theory to real life. a result of overdoing it with the beer. Repeatedly. Alcohol has always had a special place in my life. However it is surprising just how much you can drink without anyone being unduly concerned. and an extra lane is about to join from our left. I’ve never been an alcoholic. The heavy traffic means there are plenty of people to watch my performance. Yep. not at all. Achilles’ Heel This talk of facing one’s own shadows. It’s true though. We’re going slow enough to avoid getting the vomit all blown back in my face. A special place in my life? Now that is starting to sound scary. Not particularly unusual. drinking. drinking. I can’t pull over as the hard shoulder is coned off. I’d had a couple of lagers in the house. Picture the scene. and the fact that we find such problems so difficult to discuss. talking.12. especially considering that we all have our own context for this – that of our individual weaknesses and vulnerabilities. heavy traffic moving slowly through the road works. There’s nowhere to hide. It’s Sunday lunchtime on the motorway. The sort of stuff I might have read in the past and found myself unable to relate to the day to day realities of my life. and you somehow get younger and younger as the night goes on. I’m really not sure that last night was even worth this humiliation. but have always managed to drink more than is either wise or healthy. but still fast enough that it goes all over the exterior of the car. then got a phone call out of the blue from some friends. as this is a very socially acceptable drug. but there is a danger that it could come across as smug-sounding advice. especially with the extra lane about to join from my side. I decide not to make eye contact with my audience. and shot off to meet them in the pub. vomiting. recognising ‘that moment’ and avoiding the cop-out is all good and well. tomorrow doesn’t exist. In fact alcohol has served me well through many a difficult 92 . and keep on looking down at the tarmac. serve to make this chapter deeply personal. and is widely used for a variety of reasons. my own Achilles’ heel has been alcohol. For many years. Binge drinking – a fine old British tradition. Time goes on hold. We’re doing perhaps 20mph. It’s not nice. My own struggles around this. pretending that I’m not aware of them.

we’re all outside the pub.period. Sixteen years old. licensing laws have since been relaxed. working up the courage to go in and order a pint. determined to be ‘grown ups’. Straightforward enough for me. but the years seem to drop off when I approach a bar. Hmm. By the time I get served. Easing away the pressures of the week. ready to push my limits. A few quid in our pockets because we were all working. Otherwise. I feel like I’m eighteen again. this type of binge drinking remains the norm for many people. God forbid that should happen before you are completely bladdered – if you finish the night without being totally wrecked. It wasn’t just us teenagers starting out. Not only was this an acceptable way to drink. the single purpose of drinking is to get hammered. as I can hang on to what little remains of my dignity. 93 . then you simply haven’t had a good time. Why? Because (as we all know). you could almost say that it is my special friend… cut to mental images of Homer Simpson cuddling a crate of Duff beer. got me through a few hard times. Absolutely annihilated. all revved up and raring to go. Pathetic? Maybe. It’s better that way. the pubs were full of ‘proper’ grown-ups doing exactly the same on a Friday and Saturday night – a bit of escapism. And so it went on. but I guess this is symptomatic of spending my late teens through to late twenties drinking in this manner.K. you might not really want to know about the embarrassing memory blanks. Like it or not. Looking back. There are (inevitably) many more entertaining stories . Although the U. held me together. you haven’t had enough. Hey. for years and years. and determined to have a good time doing so. this is a part of British culture. and over the years that followed. despite the humour value. and as quickly as possible. I certainly put the hours of practice in. before the (then) short opening hours see the bell ringing for last orders. I have decided not to tell all.a wide variety of outrageous drunken exploits to be recalled. Now I might be older and wiser. Besides. I’m not entirely sure this is showing me in my best light… To understand my relationship with alcohol. it was the only way for most of us. It goes with the territory. Though extremely tempting. we were just kids. you have to go back to 1986. and one that will remain for many years to come. A good time that could only be achieved in one way the traditional British way of drinking as much beer as possible. and trying to alleviate some of the pain and boredom.

and it just didn’t seem right. it’s so cheap compared with the pub. eh? The more you drink.no more alcohol then? For a short while it seemed to be this way. or how a giant turd came to be sitting in my bath one morning… Jump forward in time to 1998 – moved to a new area a year ago. Just common sense really. largely because my wife was pregnant. Blimey. and often nothing at all. astounding. Our first child. just two or three will do. We suddenly find ourselves so bone-achingly tired that neither of us have the motivation to go out. Well. Now we’ve been in our new home for a year. So . but so very. So we finally broke the routine. so my drinking was mainly restricted to the weekends. they’re almost giving it away. It has no meaning at this point. Clearly the problem was solved. Our new life is good. Any remaining doubt about the pub scene is finally laid to rest by the exhaustion. but then I discovered the joys of drinking at home. A great deal of positives. After all I had to get up for work in the week. to say the least. Wow – look at the prices up the off-license. sometimes just a couple. Scary too. might as well get a few down me at this price. Sometimes I drank a fair bit.my personal vendetta against Ladas. and had just been going through the motions. wonderful in many ways. and for a while the notion of drinking in the house does seem to be a reasonable 94 . Exhilarating. exciting. and although we haven’t found the rhythm of the local pub-life. If only that had been the case. very tiring. It is a strange thing for someone who has always liked a drink to find themselves without either a pub or a willing drinking partner. it kind of seemed that way at the time. we have just been through one of the biggest life changing experiences that it is possible to have. the more you save. first child just born. let alone the effort to actually get ourselves ready. but the days and weeks melt together in a bleary-eyed haze. Notions of going drinking and socialising seem as alien as a little green man in a spaceship. and the cycle of weekend pub binges came to an unexpected end. And it’s not as if I have to drink a lot. That I wasn’t enjoying it as much as I used to. no harm in that. The situation did however help me to realise that the whole weekend drinking thing had become dull and jaded over the years. To be honest we really can’t be bothered to make the arrangements. Never quite got into the pub scene after we moved.

Issues appear around health – eczema and asthma. The biggest difficulty now is to understand exactly what the problem is. this might have been a cream cake. you can have a drink again the next night. But then things get more complicated. and gave us a real purpose for life. But what alcohol does do is suppress the feelings of stress. and then happy once more. It took me a while to figure that one out. got through another tough day in one piece. Of course there is the occasional worry that you might be overdoing it a little. The problem here is that you get used to having a drink in the evening. and doesn’t actually capture the nature of my drinking at all. more so than I could ever have imagined. I found that I could finally admit to myself that I have a problem with alcohol. I am drinking for effect . hard look at your own shadows and weaknesses. especially when you are taking a long.adjustment from our old life to the new. then two. of not feeling able to cope. At first it’s just sometimes in the week. physical disabilities and hearing impairment. then it becomes more days than not. Life is hard. but that’s easy sorted – you can prove to yourself there is no problem by going without for a night or two. later still and you realise that you’re kidding yourself with the ‘almost’. all on top of having a very young family with insufficient support around us. because I’ve already proved that I can abstain for a few weeks. when it happens for you (and when this is what you want). Life with one. this inevitably took the form of a couple of beers. having kids is the most rewarding and fulfilling thing that can happen to you. then three young children is tough. Or two. a weight problem or an eating disorder. No regrets. it has always been exclusively in the evening. I’ve never liked daytime drinking – good job really or I might well have been a full-blown alcoholic. no matter how much I’ve actually been drinking. and allows me to see (and feel) what is really beneath this difficult 95 . Around the same time. Also. but just a little something to say well done. not ever – having kids is the finest and most rewarding thing that we have ever done. Nothing heavy. But for me. other issues start to appear. To someone else. The way I have used alcohol to self-medicate was once described as using an ‘emotional anaesthetic’. serious food allergies.self-medicating to cope with the pressures of a busy stressful life. But it can also be the hardest. but it really doesn’t fit. Can’t be a physical addiction though. In the cold light of one hung-over morning. It’s difficult to remain in a state of denial for long. Whatever the clichés. lots of pressures at work are adding to the fun. A real problem. and as a result I sometimes feel like I deserve a little reward by the end of the day. Yes. And so it continues. Later on and it’s almost every night.

You know the stuff – cardboard box. Fast forward to that evening and where am I? In the off-license as usual. Only this time it’s not for the usual few cans of lager or a bottle of red – this time I’ve bought a big box of wine. I might know that it isn’t the right thing to do. decided to cut out the drink for a few days. Recently I tried this again. But despite all of this self-learning. I’ve managed to do it before. to create unnecessary battles. Or when. Can’t be right. quite like this perspective. I still can’t control my drinking. So not only have I abandoned my decision to stop for a few days. This is about an internal battle. however it just doesn’t work for me. This is no way to live – it simply doesn’t make sense. no longer certain how much you had. but never quite manage to change their lifestyles. so it shouldn’t be too hard. and I’m wondering now if it just might apply to this situation. and for the wrong reasons. Maybe this is why I always return to drinking. You can see the direct parallels with people who get caught up in a cycle of endless dieting. No idea how much you’ve had until it’s empty a few days later.but now it feels like I have achieved nothing. The next day I start thinking about this – why does it have to be this way. But what do you do? I thought I had been growing in my understanding. Unfortunately. that’s just how it is coming out.self-created and self-destructive. how the problem is presenting itself. The equivalent of four normal bottles. but somehow I can’t seem to stop myself. keep going by the glass. and as a result never succeed in the long term. I made this decision made on a Sunday afternoon – no more beer until Friday night. This is about me fighting myself. Exactly the type of internal battle that I talked about earlier . Even then. Just the same issues under the surface here. little plastic tap on the side. but I’ve been around this loop too many times before and ultimately it hasn’t made a difference.surface layer. Maybe this is why I always revert back to having a bit too much. too often. I am still being driven 96 . Reducing my intake makes perfect sense. this new found awareness. what it is that drives me to self-destruct? There’s also this tendency of mine to fight my way through life. This actually creates another appeal. thought I had made a few major breakthroughs along the way . a bit too often. I know that I drink too much. it seems I can only access this by poisoning myself every night. as I quite like what’s underneath. Cutting down is the usual advice. This is not really about alcohol. I have positively waved two fingers at it by going way over the top.

by the most basic of impulses. and here I am with no answers. where does that leave you? All the knowledge in the world is of little use if you can’t apply it. and the well-being and harmony of those around me. or addictions. and I’m not sure how I can get back up this time. It’s low level stuff really. Self-development – who am I kidding? It takes more than reading a couple of interesting books to reach a state of enlightenment. helped get me back up and moving again. hardly the sort of thing that should stop me in my tracks on this supposed path to a better life. You need to do something positive with that learning. of changing myself. But now it feels like I’ve hit a wall. desires. of changing the world around me. you know the sort – can’t go under it. my life. 97 . So now I’m rock bottom. A real solid wall. Fucked. So much bigger than I am. so very much bigger. On the floor again after all this time. make a difference in your life. My push along the self development/personal growth route has been a real motivator. And if you can’t get a grip on the most basic of impulses. can’t go over it. and this lack of control is impacting on my health. And here I am. After all those dreams of a better life. can’t go around it.

SPREADING WINGS 98 .

High spinning kicks and amazing leaping attacks. understanding one’s role in this world. Bonding and growing. fitness. and I was to stay for some five years or so. I had no idea what to expect. being part of something. becoming a better person. The sheer pleasure of the training. And what of the thousands that train each week. belonging. learning how not to be hit. The black belt – often seen as the goal by those yet to attain it.a lack of 99 . I was particularly uncomfortable and timid with people that I didn’t know . Finding the flow of the universe. quick-fire punching complete with sound effects. in a wide variety of styles and environments what do the martial arts mean to them? Confidence. but was enthralled by what I saw. facing fears. but able to cause death within hours by nothing more than a slight touch. Not to mention the legendary Death Touch – taught to very few. individually and as a group. Friendships. self improvement. A love affair with the art immediately followed. Big-Arnie super strength and smart one liners. I found the martial arts almost by accident. spiritual enlightenment. the arts of war. I quit smoking in the early nineties. usually seen as the beginning by those who already have. Prior to this I had grown up with a strange mixture of overt confidence in known situations. Having talked on the phone to a Ju-Jitsu guy in Chesterfield. The mental challenge. as if superhuman. Self defence. technical knowledge. absolutely none. and soon started to look for some sort of sports activity to improve my fitness. Hard to imagine a greater gulf between public image and reality. taking massive hits and knockout blows then getting back up with no more than a grunt. Learning to hit. Supreme self defence . Fighting without fighting. my curiosity was tweaked enough to make a visit worthwhile. knowing how to influence those around you for the better. learning to move. self awareness. yet without causing serious injury. grit and determination. combined with fear and an inability to think (or sometimes to even speak) in unknown/uncertain situations. overcoming difficulties. History and tradition. The awesome black belt – able to take out a whole platoon of marines with one hand behind his back. Jackie Chan humour and impossible odds.knocking out opponents with single strikes and unlikely kicks. The Martial Arts What do the martial arts mean to Joe Public? Kung-fu kicks and Bruce Lee moves. fancy throws and heavy landings.13. Having the ultimate spirit. Fighting. isn’t it… For myself. Personal development.

confidence, uncertain self image and inadequate social skills conspired to make life difficult. Those that knew me well thought I was all upfront and confident, without seeing that this was only one side of me.

No-one seemed to ever realise how difficult I found unknown situations, or how hard it could be to speak to people – especially with social chit-chat. I seemed to be the only person incapable of dealing with such ordinary day-to-day conversations. The more socially skilled might find it difficult to understand this polarised behaviour, of being apparently outgoing and confident, but then unable to make small talk about the weather because of my awkwardness. It could be hard enough with blokes, but even more difficult with women. Not comfortable, and definitely not good for you.

Over the years that followed, my time with the Ju-Jitsu club really seemed to help. My confidence grew, and I started to find it easier to talk to people. I threw off the shackles of a poorly paid job, went out into a new and growing industry, and found ways of pushing my boundaries on all sides. This was a very exciting time for me. What also developed, although I’m not sure I was aware at the time, was some degree of self-belief. During this period I trained hard and consistently, accepted pain and discomfort as being the price of knowledge, and absorbed a great deal from the instructors. As my technique developed, my confidence also grew, and with it, the belief that I would be able to use these skills should I ever need to defend myself. In turn, this unquestioning belief enabled me to learn and progress well within my chosen system, and so it went on. However this was not to last.

After about four years or so, I started to question the practical value of what I had learnt. Yes I was fairly confident in my ability in a dojo setting, but what about in the street? What if I was attacked? What if it was by someone who had done some boxing, or an experienced street fighter – how would I fare? The Big Question – the one that had lingered unwelcome in the back of my mind for so long - finally forced it’s way out. Exactly what is this black belt worth in terms of real self defence?

My instructors at the club were good people, and technically very able, but felt they had to be seen to have all the answers. This lack of honesty on their part was then fuelled by the increasing influence of those who were (at the time) starting to challenge the traditional arts, and question the

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validity of their claims to teach effective self-defence. So how would I really fare against a boxer? What is this black belt actually worth? The answers that came out in the cold light of honesty were to leave no room for excuses. The art I had spent years studying, in the final analysis, turned out to be built on unstable foundations. Foundations which would not have stood up in the face of real violence.

My self-belief was in pieces, my confidence shattered. What should I do, just carry on, and hope this goes away? How can the other students and teachers keep their eyes and minds closed to this? Don’t tell me they’ve never wondered. The (alleged) applications that we are being taught, don’t actually stand up under pressure – surely this must concern them? And what now - do I just walk away? Will having nothing be better than having this? There were no easy answers, but after months of anguish and internal wrangling, I eventually decided that I had no option other than to walk away from the art I loved. I felt crushed and betrayed. Absolutely devastated.

This was the start of two years mourning. I made occasional disappointing visits to check out various clubs, ranging from Kick Boxing to Hapkido, free-style Karate to Aiki-jutsu, but never anything that felt real. And not a day passed when I didn’t feel upset at having lost the art I loved. Other wonderful things came into my life during this period, in particular my growing family, and needless to say this did much to distract me from the martial arts, and brought great joy into my life (which continues to this day). But the feelings of loss, betrayal and grief were always there beneath the surface.

Finally I stumbled across a poster advertising a martial art – not one I’d heard of before, but one that claimed to be about real combat, with no sports application whatsoever. It sounded worth a visit, and what followed was another love affair, this time with Bujinkan Ninpo Tai-jutsu – a Japanese combat art, incorporating nine separate traditions (ryu) under one Grandmaster. This included ancient Samurai ryu, and ninja ryu, along with a wide variety of weapons. This unique combination of martial traditions also had a genuine focus on survival in the widest sense. In addition, the spiritual aspects of the art were openly discussed – rather different from my previous experiences. Personal enlightenment and spiritual development were considered an integral part of the journey. Immersion in these arts provided a path towards becoming a complete and enlightened human being, not just a master of martial technique. The ultimate goal is one of true personal power, described as “attaining the mind and eyes of God”.

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On the physical plane, the training had much to do with unlearning old ways, and was big on spontaneity. Learning to relax, to move, and to change techniques mid-flow when needed. A real change from the physically strong techniques I had previously learnt. This was an art that would take your opponent to a place where they could no longer fight, neither physically nor mentally. The concepts of winning whilst appearing to lose, of interchanging truth and falsehood, and of becoming close to nature were all new to me. I certainly don’t claim to have mastered these things, but this exposure, along with the distinct mindset that seems to go with the art, were to have a profound effect on me.

After an initial period of having to un-learn everything I had learnt in the Ju-Jitsu club (as it seemed at the time), my confidence quickly picked up. It was a different approach, with different ways of moving, and different goals. I liked it, and quickly started absorbing as much of the history and background as possible. I began to relax, mentally and physically, and move more naturally. I started to think less of ‘having to win’ when performing a technique, and began to flow. At least a little.

Around this time I was also absorbing a great deal of martial philosophy, both from senior figures within the Bujinkan (notably Hatsumi Sensei and Stephen K. Hayes), and also from elsewhere, such as Sun Tzu, Musashi, Bruce Lee, Geoff Thompson and Peter Consterdine. Between the physical and mental aspects of the training itself, and the wide-ranging influences that I was studying outside the dojo, my own thinking began to change significantly.

Meanwhile, the training continued, and with it my techniques and grasp of the philosophical aspects grew. My confidence and self-belief were slower to develop, perhaps held back by the ‘betrayal’ of my previous experiences. I was always left doubting, although I may have been holding myself back with my constant questions of what if, what if, what if? Irrespective of the reasons, I didn’t establish a convincing belief in my ability to cope with a real life violent encounter, which in time became part of my decision to leave the Bujinkan.

Others factors in this decision hinged on the psychological level. Although it had at first been a wonderful and free sensation to let go of the restricting discipline that was part and parcel of my previous art, I later felt that I was without discipline. Although it is generally accepted that

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but it wasn’t to be. Not rationally. I stuck with it.but it was time for me to change direction. I had no plans. blindly hoping that things would sort themselves out. First time on the mat and everything feels right. I left that evening with a strange sensation in both my stomach and my heart. An exciting new chapter had begun. The drills and exercises we did to focus this ‘spirit’ left me with a strange feeling in the pit of my stomach. Not just the blood-rush. It was a very warm. at times the anger that comes from the very core of your being. A few weeks later. so instead I decided to surrender this to the flow of things. After trying very hard to think through my options and figure out where my future lay. Lots of reality. I had also lost something along the way. and things were never going to be quite the same again. but although it might be scruffy looking to the beginner. but I knew this was still the right decision. but I just somehow knew. and we start looking at the essence of the art – not the techniques themselves. and accept that the next step would come to me when the time was right. however much I wished it. no alternatives. 103 . and one that I found I could transmit outwardly with intention. not just the adrenalin – I am familiar enough with these to recognise that they were present. and it became apparent that some of my needs would not be addressed within this art . but the inner strength. And it did.in fact that instructor is still a good friend of mine . at the same time this ethos just wasn’t working for me. I eventually realised this was not the right way to approach my situation. And not just determination. but rather the spirit from within that actually makes the techniques work. Although I had gained much in terms of freedom. A few months on. and knew with certainty that I had just turned a corner in my training. no other dojo lined up. there was clearly a beautiful art just beneath the surface. No good ever comes of trying to force the right decision. This is the thing that will make these techniques real. totally street orientated. but so was something else. very fluid feeling.a fact that wasn’t going to go away. and I come across a small Goshinkwai Combat club. There were no bad feelings . My path was slowly but surely going in a different direction from the dojo and instructor that I had spent four great years with.discipline does have to be self-imposed. Straight away I can see that I will be training with these guys for a long time to come. we parted company. and after some indecision on my side. the thing that will actually bring you through a dangerous situation in one piece.

It can explode into action. Once you have felt this. the truth becomes self-evident. The strength and discipline of old.feeling is believing. This experience had a huge impact on me. And remember that whilst all of this is going on.however. but without the weakness of spirit. not too difficult to understand on the intellectual level. I know that this has changed my entire world in terms of training. we also continue to project the overwhelming mental domination. So far. This not only makes a physically powerful technique. Although I am only scratching the surface of this right now. but without the tension that came with it. the physical body is able to relax. For me it is particularly difficult to call-up this attitude from my hara (pit of the stomach). and then explode again. but find it then difficult to find and transmit this intensely powerful mental state. but without the drawbacks. This total and continuous domination then feeds through into the physical aspects of the technique. without becoming physically tense. and to allow the beginnings of some degree of honest knowledge and experience to flourish. The feeling of overwhelming your opponent. so good. and words of explanation are no longer necessary. as it utterly changes every technique. Every single technique. What is more. But at the same time as giving out this continuous and overwhelming sense of domination. The opportunity to find once again the confidence of old. Easy to say. The application taught within the Goshinkwai Combat system transmits the mental determination through the physical. I have to say that there are certainly others I have met who teach similar principles – no-one has copyright on this stuff after all .I am aware that this projection of spirit or intention will sound familiar to students of many different martial systems. Make no mistake about it. but now with the blinkers off. and then continuously. of completely dominating him. relax and breathe. this is the first time I have trained with people who keep this high on the agenda. as someone once said. but actually this is not so easy to put into practice. Likewise I can remain relaxed. but one that also shows (feels) your aura and determination on a psychological level. is transmitted from (if not before) the first contact. The relaxation and movement of more recent times. as required to complete the technique – this on/off switch helps to eliminate unnecessary tension in the body. largely because of how it felt. It will 104 . is that this system has the potential to give the best of both my previous approaches. this is something that you have to feel in order to understand . I have to say I was astounded by the impact of this.

But they have already started to fade a little. without the negatives of either.the self-belief is starting to come back. and putting the hours in. as they can leave a very stubborn mark on the psyche. should the need arise. And most importantly of all . No longer is there an expectation that I will have to do battle with life. which come together only from doing the right training.undoubtedly take time for the doubts to go completely. Only this time with a solid foundation. These are different and complimentary sides of the same coin. 105 . the benefits of both previous approaches. As well as having the confidence to expect not to fight (and therefore no longer creating unnecessary battles). I also have an increasing confidence to fight. As I have said.

Religion vs. and the deity as somewhere between an aloof parent and combined judge/jury/executioner. There is no hell. and an intention to make a personal and positive contribution. however they often get lost when these teachings are applied to our day to day lives. is it just me that smells a rat here? I have no doubt that the majority of these religions have deeply significant spiritual teachings at their core. and gives little in the way of personal responsibility. If you take a look at the world’s major religions. the relationship actually treats the believer as some sort of misguided child. sometimes feared or placated. Despite the common depiction of the benign shepherd and his flock. There is no heaven. It’s hard to argue with those as guiding principles. or if they are continuing to grow and develop. Take man-made dogma and swallow it whole. but always in the name of love. I also value an ability to see what is important in this world. peace and forgiveness. Beliefs must be accepted and not challenged. Personally I care little whether someone believes in a God or not. the standards they hold in their hearts.14. This is not meant to offend anyone. their nature. 106 . Spirituality My personal views on religion are fairly straightforward: There is no such thing as a God. It also helps to understand whether this is a static position. much less which one. and how the two match up. the main requirement is usually an unquestioning faith in a supreme being. What is important to me is the person themselves. and their capacity to love and serve others. Specific beliefs are hold little relevance to me . Most religion is heavily dependant on blind faith. even if you know if doesn’t quite make sense. and the essence of those teaching will typically be love. Hmmm. these are just my honest beliefs. Gods are to be obeyed.the real significance is in the way that people behave. There is no afterlife.

one of the main problems is that organised religion is just that – it is organised. In itself. is often different from the core spiritual teachings.As this overlaps with many established religious beliefs. the one that’s more eye for an eye 107 . you might well ask what my problem is. and other times more purposeful. What has been created – magnificent buildings. and insists that it actually becomes Christ’s flesh. Every religious or spiritual leader seems to consider themselves as being charged with spreading God’s word. but also the age-old passages that he is reading from – the ‘holy text’ is also the word of Man. All of it. Once inside it might be more of a social club than anything. the people in your local church will say that this is an abhorrent misuse of God’s name. Essentially I feel there is a huge gulf between religion and spirituality. if we were really concerned about saving Man’s soul from the hot and fiery place. is it? What about their God. and although many in this country are offshoots from a single religion. despite what they might claim. whether intentionally or otherwise. Really? Given the state of the planet. Let’s stick with the harmless for the moment – for example. So many different churches. The main drive might really be bums on seats. even they can’t quite agree on what is right. Even if I accepted the existence of a God. however they each use their own differing interpretations. or knocking doors to spread the ‘good word’. or how to best look after their ‘flocks’. I would have thought we might put our energies to more useful matters. often not quite agreeing with each other. this will sometimes be harmless. Not just the modern preacher’s interpretation.is all man made. that’s not what the militants are saying. complex ceremonies and traditions . and always putting their own slant on things. Usually at different times. We’ll be arguing about what colour hats to wear next… And what of the not-so-harmless? How many wars have been fought in the name of a God? How many dead? How much suffering in this world has been caused in the name of religion? Sure. one branch of Christianity feels that a piece of bread is a symbol they do not need to use within their worship. I don’t like to nitpick. the combined works of lots of Men. Another denies that it is symbolic. Actually. extensive written dogma. we suddenly have irreconcilable differences between the two major versions of the Christian faith. Before you know it. in both physical and spiritual terms. Leaving theological debate to one side for a moment. and that religions generally don’t do what it says on the tin. this is Man’s word. with more concern visible over who does what for the summer fete than about people’s spiritual well-being. but this is not God’s word at all. The focus. but hey.

than by others who might lead them astray.than yours? What’s wrong. and that’s alright. To be honest. Some people lack the strength and courage to stand up tall against the hardships of life. what an idiot. Others need to feel that there is purpose in this cold universe. Some might smile at my foolish beliefs. your mind will be closed to my words. This is understandably common among those who have suffered loss and tragedy. it helps to know that the reasons are there somewhere. there are worse things to become wrapped up in. Wild accusations might follow about that version of God having been used to control the masses… Despite my own beliefs. and you may never see past the brainwashing. The plain fact is that various religions have many hundreds of thousands of followers in the UK alone. has that one gone out of fashion? Next we might be saying that the ‘fire and brimstone’ God of the last century might not have been real. and is part of a master plan. you patiently wait for me to stop my misguided nonsense. Rather than listening. one or two might even mock my obvious stupidity – ha ha. it is better for them to be led by religious men who are (usually) positive influences. and to be fair. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say that they need what is on offer. because we are each leading our own lives. some need a spiritual or emotional crutch to lean on.if you need it. many people do want what is on offer. By the time you are old enough to know your own mind. Everyone knows that we would all fall off… 108 . who am I to say? Come to think of it I wouldn’t even tell them that there is a bigger picture to be seen. then you need it. Irrespective of what I might think. it doesn’t matter how many times I might tell you that the world is round. and that someone is looking after it all. There is also the fact that people will only see the plain truth of things when they are ready to. grown up surrounded by these teachings. the world’s major religions are generally both positive and harmless. This is no more than indoctrination under a different name. that perhaps there might be another explanation – until you reach that point. Even if we can’t understand that plan. I don’t wish like to sound as if I am just mocking. the propaganda has done it’s job. and accepted many so called ‘fundamental truths’ before being mature enough to question them. unless you are open to the fact that your previous beliefs might be flawed. I would never dream of telling anyone that they are wrong. that everything happens for a reason. Some have been brought up around a particular faith. Others may just be weak by nature. Not unless they asked. I don’t really object to people’s beliefs . And to be fair. For example. Crazed militants aside. and after all.

His companion had also been cast out as a heretic. unethical church leaders had decreed that Thomas was to be excommunicated – thrown out of the church.not the church as a building. He would not like a deal of what is being practiced or preached. as she pointed out that perhaps we are not quite so far apart in our thinking as we had always assumed. however she felt no such despair. nor as an establishment. A friend of mine is a practising Muslim. Instead God is everywhere. This was also picked up in Heretic . but we could both see the common ground. For a man living in those dark ages. this was almost a sentence of death. The main character in this excellent book was Thomas. the irrefutable truths. showed him how to behave. How we might reach them is all but irrelevant. I have found myself moving even further away from organised religion. She explained that it doesn’t matter if you are not allowed into the church. This is what I am looking for – the common factors at the core. the bastard son of a priest. The story was set in the fourteenth century. and found it impossible to imagine life without God. With that. also. I got a very different answer from that which I might have expected. When I have talked to her about some of my thoughts. and some years ago we talked about his faith. With that I smiled. and how it provided a framework within which he could live. something that continues to this day. when the church virtually owned the souls of folk throughout the land. Throughout the conversation I found myself marvelling that the benefits of his faith were exactly those that I had found within the martial arts.Although some of my views on religions are long-held. she smiled. with his soul effectively cast asunder. For a variety of reasons. to become a better person and contribute positively to society. especially as the son of a priest. both high born and low. because that is not where God is . it is interesting to see that as I have become increasingly aware of the spiritual aspects of life. I come from a semi-religious background . he would be far from happy with much of what the churches have become.how it guided him. Thomas was shocked beyond belief. especially around this separation of spiritual matters and church matters. and would likely declare that many of the world’s Christian/Catholic churches have lost their way from his teachings over two thousand years ago. Look 109 . They were two unlikely sounding routes to the same thing perhaps.my mum has been a regular church-goer throughout her life. She felt that if Christ were to return to earth today.a novel by Bernard Cornwell.

There is no god to be worshipped. Very different from ‘religion’. stripping bare. And to be closer to Nature is something that we can all benefit from. because we can all feel his presence. already there within themselves. There is something irresistible about this power. Hayes’ thought provoking book ‘Action Meditation’. and polishing that which is inside. and help you to find the right qualities within yourself. this incredible force goes by a simple name – Nature. powerful forces at work. question and examine everything. and the Noble Eightfold Path. but look afresh and you will see undeniable magic. For me. Try walking across the local park on a cold frosty morning as the bright sunlight is bringing everything to life. and encouraged to go out and look. Prior to this I had always assumed (in my ignorance) that Buddhism was just another religion.* On a spiritual level it is hard to disagree with the power of this presence. in particular Mikkyo – The Japanese Diamond and Lotus Tradition. Look at the intricate complexities of food chains and eco-systems. Try looking at the cycles of the changing seasons – so dulled by familiarity that we no longer see the detail. A couple of years ago I found myself taking a look at some Buddhist practices. in the air and the trees . As I have already mentioned. Inevitably there are varying translations and interpretations. and also connecting it all together. as I felt this truly captured the essence of these teachings. the characters such as Kongosatta and Fudo Myo-oh within this tradition are not there to be worshipped. so that we can find the true path ourselves. as this promotes a truth where everyone has all that they need to find spiritual enlightenment. Rather they serve as positive representations of different aspects of the self. and when it touches us. whatever name you might choose to give it.for him in the fields.there is no need to prove his existence in these places. ** 110 . to be used as role models of a sort. to guide your thinking and behaviour. in fact quite the opposite – in Buddhism we are asked to take responsibility for our own spirituality and growth. we know the truth in our hearts that we too are connected to this force. A universal theme within Buddhism is the guidance known as the Four Noble Truths. however I have reproduced the following from Stephen K. there is a truly incredible life-force within each part. The journey then becomes a matter of peeling away layers. however it turns out not to be the case at all.

The Four Noble Truths i. The way to begin to cultivate clarity is to follow the Buddhist Noble Eightfold Path 111 . To the unenlightened mind. Since causes always generate results. iii. and effects always follow causes. the experience of life is characterised by the anxiety of discontent. Dissatisfaction with life comes from desiring to have what cannot be had. iv. it is possible to overcome the discontented life orientation. ii. and desiring to avoid what cannot be avoided. habits and delusions that get in the way of clarity of spirit. The way to overcome dissatisfaction is to let go of those mistaken views.

Proper Livelihood Take responsibility for what surrounds you in this world! 6.see life as it really is and stay tuned in! 2. Proper View Ultimate truth is ultimate truth .The Noble Buddhist Eightfold Path 1. Proper Speech Communicate truth – say what you need to hear! 4. Proper Thought Take charge of inner vision – set your mind on what you need to see! 3. Proper Effort Keep your positive momentum going – make the right things happen! 112 . Proper Action Work constructively – generate what you need to experience! 5.

Personally I find the Buddhist mindset very refreshing and natural – it urges us to take responsibility for ourselves. and in doing so aims to set us free. as appealing as this may sound. who in addition to our shared interest in the martial arts. but ultimately all of this structure has to be left behind. rather than sitting in a silent room for two hours. contemplating different aspects of life. Proper Concentration Consistent meditation – keep a centred spirit! Fantastic! I would encourage you to give this some thought. and apply it in a way that fits with my own approach to life. It seems an accepted fact that meditation has many. Hmm. was also getting hooked on meditation. I am much more of a pragmatist than a philosopher. many positives from which we can benefit. as meditation is used by many on route 113 . point them in the right direction and gain some understanding. However. as there is an incredible amount of power within the words above.7. I’m not knocking meditation – far from it. This is not at odds with religious beliefs. in fact this is something I intend to explore further for myself. Hmm. it is also important to recognise that any meditation-based approach is essentially a teaching mechanism. a word of caution… Many years ago I trained with a guy called Ali. I don’t doubt the universal truths within the teachings. However. It’s fine in order to get seekers onto the path. I need to be in a place where meditation is about my mindset when I’m walking the dog. just waiting to be discovered. otherwise it becomes just another self-limiting system. or different faces of myself. I was also deeply curious. and is a time proven way of focussing yourself on personal growth and development. To the extent of going on weekend meditation courses where (as far as I could see) you sat quietly in a room for two days. Proper Mindfulness Use every moment as an opportunity to grow – everything matters! 8. To the extent that he was getting out of bed two hours early in order to have time to meditate. but personally I need to take this away from the man-made structure. and find a practical approach far more rewarding than investing huge amounts of time into sitting still. Although it all seemed a bit strange to me.

The trouble. I’m sorry. but it concerned me. and then back into the duck-shed. A short break or two for food and bodily functions. but that isn’t living – however wonderful your state of mind might become. in that he apparently spent all day. Others who have been at such an advanced level have described this as having chains of gold – indescribable pleasures.I can see that at an advanced level. Junan Taisho stretching. As powerful as meditation might be. Ali thought this was awesome. and their conversation found it’s way to the following question: if you could be any person. John was smiling as he told this story. In my mind it is better to be a little less enlightened. and felt that this was the person from history that he would most like to be. and I can certainly see why it might appeal to some. Real life application is everything. however. there was one monk who made the others look like amateurs. this guy spends his whole life in a duck-shed! I don’t laugh out of ignorance . There are parallels here with using drugs to change your experiences in life – entirely possible. However. it is ultimately a technique to be used. I can understand the pull of such dedication. it would be false. the potential for sheer joyous rapture through meditation must be difficult to turn away from. as you might expect. no matter what. but in the end. No matter how far this guy had come in his personal development. Sure. For years I have tried all sorts of different things. but if you go down this route then you are always in hiding from reality. but at the end of the day. who would you be? Ali began to talk about a group of monks that live and pray together in some desolate place or other. you can never get away from the absolute truth that a man is living in a duck-shed. This does rather sum up my dislike of the fragmented approach that we often have to personal growth. from any part of history. Very heavy on the meditation. he became stuck along the way and was spending his days in a duck-shed.. including breathing exercises. We had the same Ju-Jitsu Instructor at the time. In the story above. and Tai Chi style exercises. within this group. is that I am always left knowing that 114 . meditating through his entire waking day. Theory and exercises are but a starting point. back into his meditative state. but to put your knowledge to good use in this world. a guy called John – one day the two of them were talking. rather than an end in itself. It still does.to development and enlightenment. ones that must be given up if your growth is to continue. every day in a duck-shed within the monastery grounds.

and therefore our spirituality that is central to our continued growth – this is what enables us to overcome barriers and become more balanced people. the whole of the elephant. The real point is to learn now. and then we really can enjoy the journey. reference by kind permission.mvmeditation. for then we will be making this world a continually better place for those around us. Although this was undoubtedly true on occasion. for ourselves. Although this spirituality is to be found within most religions.org 115 . Instead let us concentrate on making life better now. if you like. when what I really needed was the whole picture. and develop the strength of character to apply these lessons to my life as I go along.all of the methods I had tried were focussing on specifics. And as a result. And as for the rest of it? Who cares about the guy in the big hat with all of the ornate trappings – is that really necessary to transmit spiritual teachings? I think not.it isn’t quite right for me. I might even end up a wise old man! But let’s forget about the future. The important thing is that we all keep learning. and keep applying what we have learnt. This is often accompanied by a vague but uncomfortable feeling that perhaps I just lack the required discipline. there is usually a distinct lack of practical advice on how we might successfully apply it to our real lives. ** Reproduced from Action Meditation by Stephen K. and then realising I’m eighty-five years old and need help getting to the toilet. after all we build it through our actions in the present. This has an immediate impact. It is our spirit. I can now see the main reason for this problem . starts improving my quality of life from day one. See website at www. I didn’tt want to spend forty years in deep study of all the requisite parts. Much better than waiting until I have the perfect theoretical mindset. assess the results. by kind permission. and continues to do so with each step taken. before hopefully being able to put them together. and helps us to make an increasingly positive contribution to this world. but I do believe that we are all spiritual people – so let us strive for a fulfilling life before death. See the effect.who knows. and continue to learn and adjust things as I carry on along my path. I will undoubtedly keep on learning throughout the course of my life . I may not be a religious man. Hayes. * Acknowledgements to Bernard Cornwell. for all of us.

I’m not sure I’m ready to take any big steps just yet. Now you can see that not only is this within your power. Or even allowed to. But things have changed. And try not to do too much harm to those around you in the meantime. now that you are aware of there being other ways.sit tight and carry on exactly as you are. Fine. that starting to steer yourself in the right direction can actually be quite easy. You 116 . if this is what you want . or didn’t even know that there was one. it would be a wilful choice. that carrying on regardless wasn’t an answer. This of course would be the same cop-out as my friend Ian made a few chapters ago. And now that you do know a little better. if you have been bold enough to take a look at your own life and give some thought as to what is good. reminding you of the truth. it is more likely that you knew things weren’t right. And all because it feels a bit uncomfortable. If you can see value in the issues discussed so far. However. then fine. Last time. And if you did. Perhaps you stuck your head in the sand without knowing any of these things. I guess you always reserve the right to stick your head back in the sand. is that you must take action. A decision to pretend that you aren’t aware of the responsibility you hold for your own life. If you are perfectly happy. or perhaps attending a seminar. Maybe you didn’t know that you can take some degree of control. getting enough of those moments of clarity. But now you know. and one that is not always so easy to answer. and what could do with some work . A small but vitally important point about reading this book. and that there must be more to life. perhaps this has been interesting. sticking your head back in the sand is no longer an easy option. and to turn your back at this stage would be worse than ignorance. and finding more contentment than aggravation in your day to day life. Goal Setting So what’s the next step? It’s a good question. watching a film or anything else that motivates or inspires you. maybe you couldn’t see anything of the proverbial bigger picture. but hey.then what exactly are you are going to do next? Perhaps you weren’t thinking of doing anything. and that might even seem like the easier option. If not. that you aren’t aware of the sheer scale of your potential. maybe you didn’t know what else to do. but it is also as straightforward as you decide to make it. then all of this would be going around and around inside your head.15. and you may not have felt sure that you were supposed to. It can be difficult to break out from this.

you can see for yourself that you are already starting to take positive steps. The drive and energy that comes with this can be put back into yet more action. When you set yourself well balanced goals. before it becomes impossible once more. setting goals that are too easy or too difficult. and do it quickly. As a result this gives you a feeling of purpose and progress. So how do we move on from here? What is it that you are going to do? One of the most positive steps forward is to set goals for yourself. then I would be on the right track.must do something as a result. After all. and then suddenly you’re away. but without a goal your well intentioned efforts are likely to be misdirected.setting too many goals. then it becomes easy to feel that you must incorporate each and every one of these into your new plan. and the energy that came with the initial rush of enthusiasm has long since left. and have identified all of the areas that you need to improve. when you realise how slack you’ve been. less stressed. This works on a number of levels . Nothing less. how can you ever achieve it? And how would you know if you did succeed? Stating the obvious perhaps. For example . To firm my resolve I then drew up a plan for the first month that looked like this. and a sense of excitement at moving forwards. with the poorly defined aims of becoming more relaxed. Any of these can be enough to stop even the most determined person in their tracks within a week or two. or next year. just by clarifying your intentions. or failing to put timescales on your aims. It is vital that you act now. but certainly nothing more.in the first place. and figured that if I got about six or seven of these right each day. And if you don’t? Then this whole thing is reduced down to having been merely an ‘interesting’ experience. I picked a few things I should be doing less of. and to have a generally healthier lifestyle. with the thought of putting ticks against everything that I was successful with each day: 117 . It’s all too easy to put off until next week. specifically with the details. but by then this is all a distant memory. in order to become the ‘new you’. a few that I should be doing more of. The biggest trap I fell into was creating over-elaborate plans. whilst the enthusiasm is still with you. if you don’t know what it is you are setting out to achieve. I did this about a year ago. next month. and building some real positive momentum! There can also be one or two problems associated with goals.

Not only was there too much for me to concentrate on. she pointed out that the first step in any plan of action does not have to be the perfect starting point. or even necessarily address all of the issues. as I was so uncertain whether they were the ‘right’ ones. as it prompted me to do more of the good things. She went on to explain her thoughts because I was so determined that I must take the right steps. or precisely how to do it. I must confess. This was positive at first. and make me feel lousy. I had become incapable of taking any actions at all.Day 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 etc No No Fried No Coffee Food Sugar √ √ √ √ √ √ √ √ √ √ √ √ - No Alcohol √ √ √ √ - Drink Martial Lots Stretch. I looked at her as if she was barking mad. but then I started to slip back into my old ways. and saw me spreading myself so thin that I couldn’t focus successfully on any one part. One that would give me two or three out of nine for the day. Bad enough that in my heart I already knew I was failing my new regime. and then quite low about the abject failure that I could now prove myself to be. Rather than being concerned over exactly what to do.Strength Arts Water Eat Fruit ing Exercises Training √ √ √ √ √ √ √ √ √ √ √ √ √ √ √ √ - Total 7 6 3 2 3 1 2 5 2 1 In the first couple of days my ‘performance’ was artificial simply because I knew that I was monitoring it. the Counsellor suggested that I 118 . although at the time I didn’t realise that I’d actually set myself up to fail. without having it proved to me statistically. Of course this fell apart long before the end of the first month. This didn’t give me the drive I needed to make my new programme work. let alone the plan as a whole. During one of my sessions with the Counsellor. instead it made me feel guilty. It all came crashing down. It was overcomplicated. I also had a chart to fill in.

e. make myself take even one or two small actions and then review my progress. In fact. the point is that you start the ball rolling. i. Going back to the ridiculous programme I had set for myself. the SMART approach to setting goals and objectives is as effective as it is simple. general issues around health are easier to pick up when you are not drinking. and less likely to need caffeine and sugar boosts. Geddit? 119 . Whether the first step is a great one or not. is no more than a simple display of ignorance. A goal of giving up alcohol for a month is straightforward enough to define. some positive action. however some goals can be more difficult to pin down. Had I done this I would probably have decided that it would have been the drinking. a better approach would have been to look at which of these many goals were the most important. you will be more likely to exercise. It might even turn out to be the wrong action. you will have broken out of the resigned apathy. what management bullshit. what nonsense. and given yourself some momentum that you can build upon. but without the need for an over-the-top programme. This type of attitude however. who will then laugh as if to say what clap-trap. less likely to eat fry-ups. and a feeling of putting yourself back in the driving seat. This gives some movement. so some of the other points would have followed naturally. As for the others. This is usually mentioned in conversation by people trying to prove they know a thing or two. getting off your arse and actually doing something. but it wouldn’t matter.should just start. but the most common method by far is that of ‘SMART’ objectives. well. There are different ways of setting goals. At the time I would have been happy if I could have abstained from alcohol for a month. and this would have been a much simpler and more achievable goal. Basically the letters stand for the following: Specific Measurable Achievable Realistic Timescales S-M-A-R-T.

For example. maybe. then you are lining yourself up to fail – something to be avoided at all costs. around a mile. After all. then you can be certain that you won’t achieve it. it must include definite timescales. By nature this particular target is easily measurable. So that’s to run ten miles within two hours – specific enough for me. Your goal must also be achievable. suppose I was a recreational runner (now we are stretching the imagination to breaking point).which makes it too easy to delay starting. so that’s the ‘S’ and the ‘M’ covered. Worse. If it was a real desire of mine to improve my fitness. then you need to be specific about what it is you want to achieve. But what about the rest of it? 120 . Yes. but if you set your sights too high too soon. There needs to be a way of measuring progress/achievement. or else you won’t know when you have achieved your goal. or else to put your goal to one side as soon as the going gets tough. Tall order…? Well. More running? Well.For a goal to be properly set. it is good that a goal stretches you. I’m sure I can do it in about four or five days… Perhaps I might be happy if I could cover this in a couple of hours. or a greater distance? What about running further? Well. So perhaps I would like to run quite a long way – let’s say ten miles. mile and a half. how much further? A mile? A yard? The question you need to ask yourself is – exactly what is it that you want to do? As I’ve already said. then I might decide to set myself a goal. and further when I can This is exactly the sort of goal that will do nothing for you. otherwise you will have a never ending target . both in terms of distance and time. build my stamina and self-discipline. It could look like one of these: I will do more running in the New Year or I will run further than before or I will run faster than before. This won’t help in any way. Perhaps I go for a jog in the morning before work. how much more? More times a week. you might not be able to tell how you are progressing on route – a sure-fire motivation killer. as there is nothing specific about it. and realistic. if you don’t know. but lets apply the SMART theory to this: We’re already fairly specific. Finally. although we haven’t thought about how quickly I might cover the ten miles.

because they get the life chances. What does my goal look like now? I will complete a ten mile run within two hours. I would know if I achieved this. Timescales….after all. and how realistic it might be. the lucky breaks and so on. although it is often about academic achievement. I could do this in less time. or extend it. but when the initial rush of enthusiasm passes. It seems to me that in this example. and would easily be able to match progress in training against both the distance and the timescales set out. A noble thought. I would like my children to be able to fulfil their potential. don’t be daunted if you are taking the first tentative steps of your journey. and apply the SMART theory in a similar manner. No doubt understood by generations of educators. So perhaps this is a six month goal. then clearly I would fail. who are in a position to influence this. by the end of a six month period (insert date) This is a well defined goal. and this is where I need to balance how much I want to achieve my goal. it is generally slanted in terms of enabling children to meet their full potential – i. In fact it often seems that others achieve more because they are able to. often used in connection with education i. If I were to attempt to run this distance by the end of the week. this should be exciting and exhilarating .Achievable. teachers etc. as it will take much more of a build up than this. With this in mind. So common sense and moderation weighed against commitment – lets go with the six months. To take another angle on this. these three are tied together – that is to say that how achievable this is. we can often feel that we’ve bitten off more than we can chew. You can create your own goals. a phrase I came across recently is ‘Fulfilling our Potential’. is largely down to the timescales that I choose for myself. it’s easy to decide that there is no point in trying. and one that contains an essential understanding recognising that potential is individual for each of us. it is usually aimed at the parents.we all have a great deal of potential irrespective of our background. Realistic.e. rather than directly at the child 121 . however not necessarily as obvious to the rest of us. But this couldn’t be more wrong . or how far we have already come. you have the most to gain! When we talk of potential in terms of children. In turn this gives us an ‘acceptable’ excuse to pack it all in when the motivation starts to drop. This is a fairly modern phrase. And where others seem to have been blessed with a better starting position than our own. against the time and effort I can put in. A common mistake at this point is to over-extend yourself – not always a bad thing.e.

there is no-one else looking out for you on this score (unless you are really lucky). My own potential? Hmm. always at full speed. eating and drinking habits. is the fact that you also became responsible for your own development. fifty two weeks a year… so maybe it’s how I choose to use it. the journey towards meeting your own individual potential. but hey.? When you step into your role as a man or woman of this world. your health. well I’m not doing too badly. even in just one or two aspects of our lives? Do you know any that have? If you do. Doesn’t seem right. More than you ever realised as a kid. family commitments or unavoidable chores… hmmm. wealth. and found myself wondering about the practicalities of this. 122 . home. doing the shopping… the list is an endless one.. Somewhere amongst all this. Can’t expect me to do anything creative when I’m exhausted every night. and that seems to be a common theme for us all. living arrangements.themselves. but I’m always too knackered to be bothered. Of course this can often work extremely well to support our children. So let’s give it a try. this is the price of freedom. We charge on. not making headway here. Not enough hours in the day. that we don’t ever stop to draw breath.? It’s quite easy to say. Fulfil our potential. By now. then I would guess that you can count them on the fingers of one hand. does it. let alone take time to reflect. hoping to hang on until we can crash out at home with a take-away and a DVD. Hang on. but I do seem to be at a bit of a standstill. In truth. employment.your safety. so the first thing is for you to recognise this loss. not to mention vague… And it’s no good preaching about these things if I can’t work it out for myself. what about the evenings there’s sometimes a bit of time there… oh yeah. or go drown ourselves in beer at the pub. Probably the fingers of one finger. But when do we actually stop. but actually isn’t this just too big and formless to take on? How the hell do you get a grip on something as monstrously huge as this. After all I’ve got the same amount of time as anyone else – twenty fours hours a day. just recently. There is just never enough time. family and the sort of chores listed above. not enough days in the week – as problems go I guess it’s straightforward enough… But then again. perhaps it’s not. but what about us ‘grown-ups’? How many of us have fulfilled our potential. then you take responsibility for your whole life .. most of us are so wrapped up in the whirlwind of work. lost without reference. paying the bills. seven days a week. Remember though. personal relationships. that much of it is filled with work. when do we take a step outside of our lives and think? I stopped.

Then it’s off to work. it’s also that I’m usually exhausted. Until the next evening comes around with the next few beers… 123 . so it’s always going to be something unhealthy.the greasy food. in fact I know that I do know better. What else . And I’ll likely to be running late in the morning. but a long term problem.. So what to do? The common thread here is the alcohol. but starting to see different patterns. Not just for the obvious reasons. I’m not doing any exercise either. and then there’s the next day – even more dehydrated. perhaps with the odd cup of tea. and don’t need the coffee. I feel stuck in a cycle of increasingly unhealthy living. I’ll probably become dehydrated during the evening. Not good.It’s not. then. see the trees and feel the air. so I feel pretty low about the whole thing. not even walking the dog regularly – I seem to have almost stopped doing this too. take an evening when I have a few beers or a bottle or wine . but no coffee fixes. more coffee to keep me going – don’t bother with water because I need a stronger fix. but here a different relationship starts to appear – I’m looking at the same picture.what impacts on my energy? Obviously alcohol – much as it seems to be a treat at the time. and no sugar snacks. And sugar. but they’ve crept back in with a vengeance when I wasn’t looking. failing morale and self-belief. Not to mention self-esteem. the self-discipline fails. the sugar intake – thought I’d sorted the last two. So this really is about having the energy. Even more coffee. energy.do I use that time to do anything positive or productive? No. Drink some water.. So. This is worse because I know that I should know better. I spoke in an earlier chapter about the role of alcohol. have time to take the dog for a quick walk and I can hear the birds. but also because I’m aware that the crap that I’m taking into my body is a short term fix. the caffeine. and see what happens. Coffee to get me going. Drinking mainly water. Exercise obviously doesn’t go hand in hand with this… What about decent food? Lettuce or carrots are hardly going to the most likely option for snack time after a few cans of Stella or a bottle of red. Energy. but I’ve already had a bit of toast and don’t fancy the greasy butty. Negativity – partly because it seems to come along with the poor diet. so I would pick up a bacon and egg on route to work. I feel brighter in the morning. energy. confidence vanishes. because I am settling down to ‘enjoy’ a drink. but take this out. A lack of energy translates quickly into a lack of enthusiasm. The next question is more obvious . Interesting. Then there’s the negative attitude. and apathy sets in. it does leave you listless the next day (at least). just about time.

is there? I’ve ducked this one for long enough . The implication here is that I will have to find alternative ways of dealing with the stress.The Homer Simpson part of me wants to object at this point. but measurable. Anyhow. but not because of stress. 124 . and of course it comes back to the double act of stress and alcohol. And it’s good to be able to enjoy a couple of beers for the right reasons. so this gives me a good four weeks. and feeling better in body and mind. but to move on we need to bring this back to the context of my whole life. shall we: I will not drink any alcohol for the purpose of reducing my stress levels. So. so I will need to be flexible in my use of coping strategies. Absolutes don’t seem healthy . but sustainable. one that deals with the excessive alcohol intake and genuinely seems to hit all of the other issues along the way. let alone set them as goals. Not only real. Get this one under control and we might see me being more relaxed. What works for me on one day might not on another. As a result I would then be well placed to really start moving towards my potential. but still be able to allow myself a can of beer or glass of wine with my wife or friends. it’s time to take some real action. I don’t need to define them. I can drink for social reasons (no more than a couple of times a week). both of which have an adverse effect on my life in general. In general I might drink more water or do more exercise. and also likely to fail when the enforced self discipline cracks. Neither of which are good for me. isn’t strict abstinence just another form of excess? Haven’t we already said that such strict self-control is unnecessary? This is not the way to live. less stressed. time to set a goal for myself? Yes. Let’s have a go. By setting myself one simple goal I can keep this in mind.now that I can see it for what it is. One which is not only specific. It is only the second day of the month today. Of course there is the risk here that I might slip-up. and can be written as a goal. instead of drinking like it’s some sort of race. No point in coming this far without dealing with this. or do whatever. So the answer becomes self-evident. My own personal bigger picture. at least not for me. and my loved ones in particular. And one that can be made realistic and achievable by being sensible about the timescales. but you can easily see a clear path from here. walk the dog. with a reasonable diet. until the end of the month. and when I feel stressed I might hit the punch bag. Enforced abstinence can be a holding point.to never drink again is unrealistic. Although I have a good idea what many of these will turn out to be.

and start guzzling again whilst pretending it’s just social drinking. But there is always one person that will know the truth. Me. And I can never really hide from that.

So that’s my goal, to be reviewed at the end of the month, or earlier if need be. What about yours? What is your starting point?

In the past I always felt that having personal goals was somewhat selfish. After all, my real goal is to be the best I can be for my family. The best father I can be. The best husband I can be (granted I may still have some work to do here!). Because of this, it seemed that having other ‘lower’ goals of my own would be difficult. For example, I used to feel that if I wanted to become a writer, then this would involve many hours of isolated work, which would take me further away from my family, and therefore would not contribute towards making me a better father/husband. As much as I might have liked to work towards this goal for myself, I felt it would be selfish and counter productive when set against my ‘higher’ aims and ideals. It is only recently that I have been able to see past this – in fact becoming a writer has been a fantastic journey for me. My own personal growth has accelerated tremendously since I started to write, and the impact on my family has been positive. Although it is true that I have taken hours to write, I have organised this around my family as best I can, to minimise the impact. In any event, I know that I am a better person for developing in this way, and as a result I am better placed to be a good father or husband.

There is a balance to be found, because as noble as it might feel to be completely dedicated to others and take nothing for yourself, in the end it does you no good. And what is no good for you invariably will have a negative impact on those around you. Besides, if you don’t value yourself at all, then why should anybody else?

So think of something that you want to do, and write it down. Then go get started. Come back to it in a few weeks and see what progress you’ve made. If it’s nothing, then you will know why - you might procrastinate to others, but you know the truth yourself. And if you have done nothing towards achieving your goal, then try writing a smaller goal as a first step, and make the timescales shorter, so that you need to act straight away.

There is nothing you can’t do, but in order to get this thing moving, you must do something positive for yourself.

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And Start Now

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16. Higher Or Lower?

It sounded like I’d got the drinking thing sorted, didn’t it? Except that it didn’t work. It never does. Going from being on my knees again, to finding a ‘magic fix’ in the shape of setting a simple goal, just seemed too good to be true. And it was…

The problem here wasn’t the goal I had set – the SMART process actually works very well. It’s just that in this particular case I wanted so badly to find a solution which would allow me to continue drinking in some way, that my motives became skewed. When you want something so much, it’s easy to pull the wool over your own eyes, to kid yourself that you’re in control. That’s exactly what I did with this goal of ‘not drinking to relieve stress’ – it might sound plausible enough, but unfortunately didn’t address the underlying issue, the fact that I never did have control over my drinking habits. Whether the twenty-something weekend binge-artist, or the thirty-something home-drinker, I have never had control, and what’s more, I don’t know that it’s possible, don’t know that I can ever enjoy social drinking without going overboard.

It dawned on me recently that heavy drinkers often die in their early fifties – I can think of a number of well known examples of this. If I carry on drinking like this, then I’ve only got another fifteen years or so left in me. Fifteen years - my youngest would still be in her teens, watching her old man going into the ground, way ahead of his time. Shit. With that perspective, I definitely have to stop. I don’t want my wife and kids to be without me prematurely just because I’m an arse that can’t stop pouring gallons of beer down my neck.

The trouble is that I really can’t stop. Despite all of this I just carry on, racing towards disaster, and I can’t cut down or stop. What the hell should I do? I was right earlier, I really am fucked. Despite all the growth and development, despite this incredible journey that I have found myself on, if I can’t find a way through this, then it will all have amounted to a slow suicide. In my frustration I continue to drink, heavier than ever now that I have admitted to myself that I have a problem. Hey, if I’ve got a real problem then I must have to drink loads, right? So I do.

The warning bells in my head are getting louder with each day that passes, I can see the big, sand-filled timer of my life draining away at twice the normal speed. Very unsettling. So I ignore it and start to think, to search in the hope that I can find a solution before this finally screws

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Sure. come back to you. A good example of this is the concept of karma – it has been said that this can be seen as a bank balance or credit card statement. it is simply cold. However it does not explain why someone is struck down by serious illness. Once we have this. Trying to relax enough to find the flow. Talk about a rock and a hard place… I have no ace up my sleeve. Terrible things do happen in this life. but if the quest is for a whole and fulfilling life. After a few days the initial panic subsides. The world just keeps on turning. Personally I like the idea . If you don’t accept what is. ‘If you accept what is. I take several steps back until I can see the bigger picture once more. and you are either found to be in credit. I stop trying so hard. Sooner or later something will give – odds on it will be either my family or my sanity. why. the magic formula that will wipe all of this from the record and let me get on with my new life. good or bad. but without the man-made rules. As a friend once said to me. A way that bring together that which is positive. and that once again I am trying too hard. then we need to leave all of the component parts behind. and ask why. In this way. different parts of the same elephant? Realising that I’m too close to the problem. Your actions. are ultimately totted up.in fact I think there are undoubtedly some truths in this. or why a child dies so young – these dreadful things are without reason. then breaking it down is only of use to find a starting point. desperately looking for the golden ticket. but it is also true.all of these different practices and techniques that are deemed to be answers. Don’t mistake the Universe as something that is either caring or malicious. so instead I go back to the stretching and the walking. and many of us have reason to grieve. That may seem harsh.’ 128 . one that is holistic rather than just breaking it all down into parts. divisions and fixed methodologies. positive or negative. or have to pay the price for being in debt. why? Unfortunately there are easy no answers to this. it is. and my vision starts to clear. your actions in this life. all of the separate components have some validity.everything up for good. no new ideas to save the day. if we are to find a way forward. sold to us as solutions – aren’t these just different starting points on the same journey. and then I remember . it is. even if yours seems to be over. I look once again at the hundreds of books on the shelf labelled Mind/Body/Spirit. There has to be another way. and gain a degree of momentum.

You are the centre of your universe in this respect. then there is no harm in it. in terms of our relationships with other people. 129 .. but the principles are sound you do indeed reap exactly what you sow. we all want to be treated reasonably don’t we? Taking this further. does it. unless you find yours within the blind faith of religion.? My view is that the above notion of karma is essentially a teaching tool . where’s the harm? Who’s to know? Well. and our emotional well-being. I could add a few extra miles on my mileage claim at work – I mean. no question. that’ll teach him… This doesn’t ring quite true. actually I’m to know. what will shape your life and also those touched by your life.I might add a couple of extra items onto an otherwise genuine insurance claim. Perhaps I eat junk food every day. checking out little Johnny’s record? Oohh look. Whether we can see this for ourselves is another matter. then the plain truth is that there are no reasons or answers to ease your pain. You do influence the way that people act towards you by the way that you interact with them – fairly obvious. The notion that some sort of cosmic being is checking out your balance sheet. negative leads to negative. we do all ultimately get what we deserve.If you have been faced with tragedy in your life. In this respect. Having said that. What you give out to others is undoubtedly what you receive in return. Perhaps I cheat or lie to make my life easier . if I continue to behave in negative ways. and then those actions and thoughts that are negative and go against life. health and well-being. or comfort-eat whilst watching TV in the evenings.the principles behind it are sound. there is also something not quite right here. For example. But the truth is more simple. Irrespective of what I say. you are continually influencing yourself with good deeds and bad. weighing up and deciding whether you deserve a good future or otherwise? Perhaps a demi-god up there in the clouds someplace. Although this happens in the subconscious for most people. even small ways. and have a bigger influence on yourself than anyone or anything else. Perhaps it is more accurate to describe this as being that which is positive and genuinely life enhancing. Positive leads to positive. the way that you treat others and behave in general has a huge influence on yourself. then this has a profound effect on me. Perhaps I continue to drink excessively in order to provide a release from life’s pressures. both for yourself and others. he’s been mean to those two kids in his class – let’s send some bad karma his way. The principle of karma does however seem work on a personal level. and if it helps people to get on the right path.

If you are looking to grow and improve your quality of life. now seems to have become part of the problem. Not sure how I can get up off my knees. be a better mum or dad. a better partner or whatever. for the world around you – this also means the consequences for yourself. This is not about traditional moral values. What was once your salvation. I know what is right and wrong. It can even make you feel like turning your back on the whole thing. or whether I claim to care or not. irrespective of this. as what was once a positive and inspiring drive to improve yourself. the thing that kept you going through the difficult times. especially when you thought that you’d come so far. but the real-life effect of your actions. then I would want to shake them and shout 130 . In fact. talk to people. the impact comes not from the actions themselves. You know it doesn’t make sense. and I know that if it was someone else. then your actions. You can take some of the ideas and apply them to your life. You can do all of this. and I would of course recommend this to anyone. and I’m still low. It is important to understand that this doesn’t just mean the consequences for others. then this has a massive impact. But… If you don’t stop the negatives. It is possible for you to continue growing and developing. perhaps you are protecting your family from harm. make them work for you. far beyond just ‘holding you back’. but what was once a solution is now definitely looking like a problem. It isn’t always wrong to lie. one so overwhelming that it can lead you to question all of your progress so far. I know what is positive and what is negative. My common sense hasn’t completely abandoned me yet. there is a simple bottom line. then what follows is a mass of frustration and confusion. You can read books. on your spiritual development. positive. let alone get through this one. all of the ideals you have adopted. improve your relationships. perhaps you might be preventing someone’s feelings from being hurt. and again I would recommend that you do so. and is actually creating stress and anxiety. It isn’t always wrong to fight. now seems to have become a nonsense. It all depends on your motivation – if the reasons why you act are genuine. So we go back to the drinking. watch TV programmes or DVDs that motivate and inspire you.how I feel. There is a very real impact on your personal growth here. but the motives and intentions behind them. I still understand the rationale. and therefore the consequences of those actions will also be positive. and not self-serving.

The author explains that we are not in possession of the full facts. but I still can’t get up. the disbelief changes to a feeling that I am about to experience something life changing. I wasn’t sure if anyone would answer. As I read on. then I must really be struggling… A day or two pass in limbo. the nature of alcohol as a poison is explored.if I’m depressed as well. comparing it first with nicotine. and there it is. In the first instance.the author claims that you can stop drinking without any difficulty. I feel some disbelief. but I desperately hoped so.HEY. and overindulgence is obviously bad for us. Maybe we crossed the line between stress and depression someplace back. And let’s not forget that I actually enjoy the taste of the stuff. you know what the score is here. The first talks about daily exercise being the key to well-being and self-discipline. I ask if anyone out there has been in the same position. I read the online reviews. In sheer frustration. helps to relieve stress. and I seem powerless to stop this dreadful cycle. you have so much to gain here. effort and progress had been for nothing. always builds back up. so I’ve occasionally had 131 . hmm . I needed help or advice from someone who really understood where I was. I pose the question on an internet message board. A few hours later and I have a couple of replies. got to be worth a look. Ok. sometimes helps us to feel more confidant – Dutch courage and all of that. and this seemingly impassable wall really was the end of my journey. I briefly explain that although I can stop drinking. and this wasn’t going to help me. without any withdrawal. But then you have to weigh this against the positives – it often helps us to relax. and then with heroin. Even I can click on a link…. Otherwise I would have to accept that all of my work. but it’s only a few quid. and without any desire to drink again! That might sound unlikely. but then again we all know that the stuff isn’t exactly a health tonic. it always creeps back. A year ago this would have been good. hasn’t it? Two days later and it drops through the letter box. sound advice. No argument from me.some controversy? It looks interesting though . it’s a bit like the self-fulfilling prophesy that came from admitting a drink problem . I probably wouldn’t have bothered. and that alcohol is dangerously misrepresented throughout Western society. the guy was right. As I read the opening pages. Seems a bit harsh. but this guy had included a link to the relevant page on Amazon. But not now. I am painfully aware of this. but you will lose everything if you don’t get up and take some bold action. The second reply suggested a book. a voice of experience to point me in the right direction. but unfortunately I had slipped further down the slope than he could relate to. and I never noticed. That doesn’t help though.

I start to think there really must be something wrong with it. With this in mind. swill around my mouth for a few seconds before swallowing. has been for about 15 years. Straight down the throat. I definitely enjoy a long cold beer – especially a Stella. glass of Perry or something similar. it even challenges the issue of taste. Hang on a minute. All around. I continue to read. Try another mouthful. just to check. After a while you get to the point where you believe that to be true.what was that? My beloved Stella has the foulest taste – uurrgghh. over my tongue a couple of times. very wrong. those things were strictly for kids. more than enough for a taste test. and also been conditioned by the adverts. then what does that mean… (dawning realisation) … shit. but with a difference – as I already know that it tastes damn good. Ha! I know beyond any possible doubt that despite any misunderstanding or ‘brainwashing’. When the book starts to explore the ‘brainwashing’ aspect of how alcohol is portrayed in Western society. So in the interests of behaving like adults. that make perfect sense and have already started to change how I see alcohol.eight cans of ice-cold Stella.some of the strong stuff that might have been a bit rough. Doesn’t anyone think to question this? Arrgghh . or at least not to mind. nice big swig. by the idea of what drinking is supposed to be.this is my favourite drink. Kid are safely tucked up in bed. and then you’re away… So far there are many things in this book that are a revelation. and take a normal swig. that’s more like it. I roll it around my mouth. Strange then to have got this point about taste so very. as this was adult stuff. but I definitely love a nice cold Stella or two. did it actually taste nice? Come to think of it – no. So I decide to try it out . but then instead of swallowing it straight down the hatch. Yuucch . and by everyone else acting along to the same script. The book asks if you remember your first drink. we kept on drinking the stuff and pretending to like it. First can opened. the book was right! I have conditioned myself. Despite the true taste being masked by a high sugar content. if there’s nothing wrong with the beer. None of us would have admitted to preferring a milkshake or a coke. and the first time I slow down 132 . and I have just made sure to really taste it. even if the first two have left a nasty taste in there. It’s like my usual evening drink. and we’re ready to go. when I let my taste buds really savour it then I will know for certain that the theory in this guy’s book is flawed. Actually it was awful. but like most of us I pretended to enjoy it. Or six. there must be something wrong with it. Chances are it was something sweet – a bottle of cider. just the same. ahh.

Far from having the urge to drink I am utterly relieved that I don’t have to drink. follow their recommended ritual for a ‘last ever drink’ and am finished with it. the layers of reality folding back in on themselves. Even the overwhelming urge to keep on drinking that I have always described as ‘having my drinking head on’. or at least some mood swings. I am staggered to think how blind I was for so many years. You may not want to give up drinking. Definitely the craving. and where I expected to find a desolate wasteland. I am possibly the least likely person of all to go tee-total – friends and family are going to have a hard time believing this. but it looks so incredibly different when the blinkers come off. However evangelical I might be starting to sound. there really is a freedom that comes with this. Now that I have been given a realistic perspective. but then again I’m not telling you to 133 . The next day I finish the book. Suddenly my mind has been blown wide open… Exactly how can I continue to drink after this? The book went on to expose various other myths around drinking. then surely the quiet insistence that one or two drinks will be ok. Unbelievable. definitely that overwhelming. All of it untrue. Suddenly I’m living in a brave new world full of potential. and always known that I would remain this way for the duration. Rather than feeling like a drinker who is going through a period of enforced abstinence. all-consuming urge to get absolutely bladdered. can’t do you any harm…? Surprisingly not the case. You might expect immediate problems or strains – perhaps the shakes. I find it is absolutely foul. This was absolutely mind blowing – one of those moments in your life that you never forget. relieved. and it’s somehow brighter and more colourful. I’ve actually found another version of my life. It feels like I have stepped outside the boundaries of my life. If I can stop drinking and be happy with it. Suddenly I can relate to the description of alcohol as poison. I don’t feel any need for alcohol in my life – this is rather strange for me as I have always been a drinker. how blinded most of the population are by the cultural myths and corporately funded brainwashing that is presented as ‘normal’. full of exciting possibilities. I actually feel glad to have put this behind me. Pleased. Or if not. then anything is possible. all the so-called ‘benefits’. excited even to be approaching life afresh for the first time. not just happy but happier.enough to taste it properly. Ironically it’s the same world I always lived in. For good. as we tend to see this as one of the few pleasures we have.

and I didn’t feel that I was missing out at all. and the plain fact of alcohol as a foultasting poison. feeling that I had failed yet again. another view of the same mountain . I remained relieved for several weeks that I didn’t have to drink. I didn’t want to drink either. Over the weeks that followed my mindset remained the same. For me. and found it quite bizarre to prefer a soft drink (honestly). But always knowing that I am using a drug. Despite this amazing change of heart. This knowledge stayed with me. this was again little more than taking another perspective. and had no physical or mental cravings for alcohol at all.is this simply playing with fire? Am I deceiving myself? Is this just another point on the slippery slope of addiction? I have to say that I am certain this is not the case. After all. But as time passed. 134 . Worst case is that it doesn’t ring true for you. as I seem to have finally found a degree of balance that had always been missing. without it even crossing my mind that I might want any. only time will tell. but this one certainly is.give up. it’s enough that I don’t drink. depressed almost. it is usually when I am at my happiest. then I would say this book is essential reading. and a dangerous one at that. Mind blowing as it was for me. It is hard to believe that I once saw nothing wrong in drinking six or even eight beers every single night of the week. Within a week I had lunch with my family in a pub. of course. However. but it’s not like you have anything to lose. On the other hand there is much to be gained . totally crashed and burned.the blatant lies of the multi-million pound industry behind it. I was initially very disappointed. I had learnt the truth about alcohol . The following evening I bought some wine for my wife and was happy to pour her a glass or two. nowadays I rarely drink to relieve stress – ironically when I do drink. if you have ever wondered about the degree of control you actually have over your drinking.although without the guidance of Allen Carr’s amazing book I could never have seen it for myself. as the months passed I did find myself drinking again. But the reality was that not only had I stopped drinking. In truth. Come to think of it. I began to realise that this wasn’t in fact the abject failure that I had thought. and was beyond any further help. Of course there are the obvious questions .few books are genuinely life changing. Many months later and I still have no misconceptions whatsoever about alcohol. and was to have a long standing effect on my habits and behaviours. but life is certainly very different now.

don’t panic . actually in order to even maintain your higher self at it’s current level.shout at the kids. the gap between the two quickly became a huge gulf. And I am enjoying every single day of it. You have reached a point where in order to grow. having some success.you are not going mad. but then falling by the wayside again. you are more likely to add to your negative behaviour . and angry. the more I felt like a Jekyll and Hyde character . You start to question why it is that you are getting in tune with the energies of the universe. and now life is full of joy and hope that simply did not exist a few months ago. resulting in less tension and more success in your life. If you should find yourself in this place. but have then hit your ceiling. The gulf between your higher and lower selves can have a devastating impact on your life. kick the cat etc. it feels like you are trying hard. Although I couldn’t see it at the time. squabble with your partner. You think that you’ve come so far.I thought I was losing the plot to be honest. and nothing at all is beyond my grasp. It is simply that this gulf is not sustainable. I can tell you. but still need to drink in order to get through? It doesn’t make sense. As if you are not good enough to sustain your good work. The bigger this got to be. Or yours. but I can feel the amazing power within.I am no longer a slave to alcohol. intolerant man! 135 . And when you are frustrated and dissatisfied. but still can’t stop yourself from screaming at the kids when you’re tired? You are finding your actions becoming increasingly intuitive. as if you have tried to develop. If you don’t. and I continued to grow at the higher level.quite unnerving. to live as both increasingly enlightened being. what had happened was this: as my ‘higher’ self had been growing and expanding. nor have you wasted your time and efforts on the journey so far. and it was all about to come crashing down around me . so it is absolutely vital that you see this for what it is. then this gulf can itself become one of the main causes of frustration in your life. The life potential in this defies reason everything is possible. I know that I am really just beginning to scratch the surface of these apparently simple changes of perspective. only to feel like someone has pulled the rug out from under your feet. In turn this magnifies the original frustration of your inability to be both Jekyll and Hyde. raise your lower self. my ‘lower’ self had remained the same. I simply felt that I had failed. you must go back and deal with some of the base stuff – and in doing so. As time went on.

So what does come next? What should you do now? Much as I would love to give you the answer to ‘life. What I can tell you. So the next step is to look at these base issues. You have to be truly honest with yourself. I can’t. 136 . You don’t have to put your future in the hands of some god or deity. and yours alone. is that in order to find your own path. My truth may not be so different from yours. and quickly before you start to self-destruct. no bewildering frustration about things not matching up. What you do have to accept is that the responsibility for this life is yours.It is now apparent that this is a vicious circle which you must break out of. and how much freedom and power we really have. you don’t need to believe in anything in particular. It’s just the next step. However tempting it is. The fact of knowing this released a lot of my own frustrations. but don’t mistake it as being yours. No rocket science here. the false assumptions we make about our limitations. and do something about them. nor do you have to attend any shared place of worship. as the right ones will come to you in their own time. just the next stage to be overcome. by kind permission of Arcturus Publishing. and as a result. Plenty of people out there are prepared to show you their ‘path’. and to consider what has been written here about truth and perception. Spread your wings. that’s all. the universe and everything’ in a single sentence. *Acknowledgements to Easy Way to Control Alcohol by Allen Carr. Actually. let me continue along my path. and no more Jekyll and Hyde. And then go. the fact will always remain that you must find your own way. and you don’t have to be perfect or without fault. but the route I take to find it will be. you don’t have to hold unwavering faith in anyone. you don’t have to commit to any specific life changes at all. Create your life.

LEARNING TO FLY 137 .

One thing that is essential if we are to overcome that which is holding us back. It could be work orientated – climbing the career ladder. Bold enough to dare to believe that we deserve better. is for us to be bold. and investigate what experiences life had to offer. And bold enough to try. getting the nod from senior management or just bringing in some extra money.the fearless plunge into dangerous situations would in 138 . or being a good role model to younger members of the family. he also went on to lead a full and interesting life. often by loving parents whose own experiences have taught them not to expect too much from life. but rather than making him afraid. continually trying harder and harder but always feeling inadequate. It might be family driven . Again this is something that we tend to grow up with. he would go and look. As well as facing what appeared to be certain death at times. But do we really know what it is? We all have different ideas of what might be required in order to consider ourselves a success. Not just in terms of achievements .your idea of success might centre around being a good parent. success has always seemed beyond us. many years ahead in the future. What Does Success Look Like? Question – what exactly does success look like? We’ve all heard of it. or clean. and we would all like more of it. I saw this film. it has actually set him free. Some have also grown up with the additional burden of feeling that whatever they achieve is not good enough. a good aunt or uncle. no matter what their achievements. He goes on to lead a life where he is not afraid to do things because he knows for certain that it is not his time to die. It could be having a good home – whether large and spacious. Bold enough to look beyond our current horizons. most of us have experienced a little of it. somehow out of reach. In the film ‘Big Fish’. a matter of absorbing the opinions and views of others as we grow through our most formative years. He would intentionally go and see what was out there. perhaps we need to put the movie stuff to one side .even when this guy didn’t know what he wanted to do or be. the central character has a strange experience – whilst still a child. and just thought – WOW! Alright.17. well decorated and homely. For the majority. The idea of this impassable gap between dreams and reality is usually sown in childhood. He has seen his own death. he is able to see the circumstances of his own death.

and accepted. to stay when it’s right for you to stay. There are important lessons in this for each and every one of us. fears that are not.that fear is a part of real life. The bottom line. irrespective of how long you might expect to live. Aside from being a strangely engaging film. a slight drawback with using examples from the movies. If you haven’t seen this exceptional film. Often the lead characters are depicted as being without fear. and if you want to learn more about this. were not actually life threatening. and see what is really out there? To follow your heart without fear. and did so without any real hesitation. he didn’t need to have seen his own death in order to live this way. Ask yourself. There are numerous techniques and strategies that can help free you from the chains that often accompany these feelings. rather it is something to be understood. because he knows that each situation he comes across. Fear is not something to be avoided. and leave when it is right for you to leave? And all simply because you know that this is the right thing to do. and should simply be accepted as normal. 139 . because he wasn’t afraid of the unknown. this really made me think. simply because I might not have had the nerve to act at the right time? To live with a bold attitude and a good heart is for the better. however daunting. I would recommend the book The Beginners Guide To Darkness by Geoff Thompson. or the nature of your death are not really relevant to this at all. I would certainly recommend it. is not ‘his time’. Think of a life without imagined fears. Most of the situations this guy found himself in. is that to be without fear is unnatural. just a natural part of life. and aren’t afraid to do it? The main character in the film is able to do all of this because he has seen his own death. is not that moment. of making strong decisions and being bold enough to really live? The length of your life. Perhaps because this is how we imagine that we really ought to be. In the main he just made strong decisions. There is however. however. any one of us could live in this way. as I did – how many chances have I missed through being faint-hearted? How many opportunities have sailed by over the years. the fears that haunt you for years. But what of the rest? To be bold enough to satisfy your curiosity. In actual fact. My experiences in recent years have taught me otherwise . Fears that are rational. or those that just pop up from nowhere and stop you in your tracks – all of these are common.reality often see you injured or killed.

Sometimes irrationally. This is real courage. your knees are knocking. and don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise. In terms of achievements. irrespective of the outcome. Afterwards you feel quietly good about yourself because you did the right thing. because this time you didn’t wuss-out – instead you saw the moment. It is only as I have gotten older that I have begun to understand what courage really is. you feel sick and rooted to the spot. when you take a deep breath and leap. and you do ‘go for it’. It only ever seems really hard when you’re thinking about it. and the last thing you want to do is to step forwards. or because of my own feelings of inadequacy. to be frightened. because it’s not thought to be acceptable. just that most won’t be honest about it. the reality is never as difficult as you have built it up to be in your mind. something I just accepted (incorrectly) as being an unchangeable part of who and what I was. When you find yourself in this position. But when you have stepped up. but never entirely sure why. Forget about the allegedly fearless heroes of days gone by. Over time this feeling of cowardice became my ‘norm’. Just like those supposed fearless heroes from bygone years did. a streak of yellow going right through like Blackpool rock. I guess we have all heard accounts of courageous people throughout history – it always seemed to me that these men and women were utterly fearless. as if I were an inferior specimen – one that should be able to do better. these are false images. But when you do go for it. you always know that you did a good thing. because I would so often feel scared of situations. I felt that I had a streak of cowardice running through me. you don’t generally feel too proud. felt frightened. and then to go on and do it anyway. the fact that you have ‘gone for it’ should be considered a success in itself.An important point here is that you should not confuse fear with cowardice. I can tell you that you don’t feel courageous at the time… you feel shit-scared. but couldn’t. sometimes not. because the doing part rarely turns out to be all that difficult when you actually take the step. 140 . but bottle out at the last minute. and then went on and did it anyway.to know what you should do. Either way. The funny thing is that afterwards. It is hard to say whether this was because of the way these heroic tales were written. Real courage is simply this . It’s the same for all of us. I always felt so unworthy alongside such heroes. Then it becomes mission impossible. and not what it is about at all. You feel a little bit proud of yourself.

If you can find this. However often when we reach these goals. Following the excitement is a slight lack of satisfaction. As previously discussed. never feels quite as good as you had imagined. or an impatience to get onto the next thing. Like most. it becomes apparent that happiness is about real fulfilment. and the next. but also to recognise and accept that the journey is one without end. then these things are of much less importance. is not about specific achievements. Instead it is about one thing – happiness. and there will always be things that we don’t like. there is no such thing as a perfect world.Ultimate success however. Remember. then the material things will have less significance for you. at whatever pace is sustainable for you. That initial high might be great. but it doesn’t last all that long. and not lose sight of this as we go through our day-to-day lives. It has been noted by many wise men that have gone before. the rush of excitement exhilarating. It is important to take the time to appreciate what you have achieved. but we’ve all seen enough desperately unhappy rich people in the newspapers to know that money doesn’t automatically bring happiness with it. and often need some sort of framework to keep us on track. waiting for us. such as money. I’d give it a go. Someone said to me recently that the impermanence of achievements surely makes them irrelevant. that we are perhaps mistaken if we commit so much time and energy to achieving 141 . So when we can see beyond the superficial. Of course we can enjoy those things. and the next. you find that the recipe for true happiness is to have love for those around you. that feel-good feeling. so you push on for that next step. houses. that true happiness is right there in front of us throughout our entire lives. We also frequently go wrong by mistaking material things for happiness. we might use goal-setting to help us. We all find it difficult to stay firmly on this path to an improved self. The key is to remember that it is our perception of. and our reactions to certain events and experiences that make us unhappy. When you attain this perspective. keep working. though good at first. genuine contentment. not the events themselves. But we each have to decide when we are ready to reach out and take it. And so it goes on. but the reality is that one set of stresses and pressures would simply be replaced by another. and food to go on the table. As long as you have clothes on your back. which have the potential to make us unhappy. usually accompanied by love for others. So you must always keep moving. clothes or cars.

or saying I’ll start again when the summer’s here. It is also about your relationships with those you love – of how your thoughts and actions flow with life. The only real mistake you can make on this journey is to stop. If you have already stopped. about the state of your bank balance or the size of your car. And what is happiness? To recap. you must take a long hard look at it before you allow yourself to stop and lose momentum. then keep the break short and get back to it as soon as possible. but before you stop. There may be times when you genuinely have no choice. and get started again as soon as possible. brush aside ‘normal’ restrictions and start making things happen. Your mind will inevitably play games and present all kinds of apparently justifiable reasons to slow down your progress. and that others may not even be what you had anticipated. or whatever. isn’t just the fear factor in a new disguise. So to go back to the question posed – what exactly is success? As you will have gathered by now. When this happens. get yourself built up with inspiration and enthusiasm. However the point of aiming towards and achieving something is not the goal itself. Whatever it takes. or go talk to friends and family if you are lucky enough to have the right sort of people around you. rather than through external achievements or acquisitions. and which feeds into your development along the way. But the internal growth is something that you take with you. but rather the change that happens to you whilst going through the process. and prevent you from pushing through your boundaries. make sure that the reason isn’t an excuse. Happiness and satisfaction are both things that are ultimately to be found within yourself. When a reason like this comes along. let’s first be clear about what it isn’t – happiness has nothing to do with what you have in material terms. put on that CD or DVD. Happiness is a state of mind. The growth that happens when you push through disappointment and failure. Restarting can be difficult when the momentum has gone. 142 . you might find yourself thinking of putting your plans to one side. I believe that success is simply to live a life of happiness. and also with the lives of those around you.your perception of who you are. so surround yourself with motivation and inspiration. or when work’s not so busy.things that in themselves are only temporary. It is about your self image . Pick up that book. There is no question that some achievements will only give satisfaction for a certain length of time. withfeelings of achievement passing after a while.

Incredibly the negatives associated with mistakes are lost. or that we are losing ground and going backwards. but the benefits quickly begin to appear. then such negative feelings will soon pass. we are always moving forward. 143 . but as long as you continue to push forwards and live with a positive mindset. Strange then. even by simply referring to them in your mind by a different (positive) name. and the positives start to pour from these opportunities. will make a huge difference. Instead you need to start redefining your mistakes. When living in tune with life. however it is important to remember that we really do learn more from our mistakes than our successes. your journey towards an increasingly happy and successful life. Above all else. and should be expected from time to time. Mistakes do happen.Our journey takes us onwards and upwards towards this success. but by thinking of these events in a different context. We might sometimes feel disorientated. and look upon them as learning opportunities. as if by magic. Not meant as ‘self-help waffle’. that we view mistakes so negatively. Again this is a simple change in perspective. although we often have to grasp difficult lessons along the way. is the way to reach the next milestone on this. remember that just getting through those learning opportunities (as many as it might take).

There are those who are seem determined to discredit you. Sad really. you may be surprised by some of their reactions. I started to find some degree of success with my writing. Accepting Success Successful achievements come along in a wide variety of shapes and sizes – different things for different people. So. however he did point out (very gently) that a book would normally be at least three or four times that length. The weeks passed. When I did talk to close family and friends. including a few that I hadn’t expected. it can be quite a mixed bag – you think that you know people. I can cope with that. and very negative. Some people are thrilled to see you take on something new. I’ve got broad shoulders. But hey.some friends that I had expected to say little and pass over it all quite quickly. It’s not all doom and gloom though . Besides. and then advised me to go and expand it into a book. but when you have had even a small success. mocking my ‘new found’ knowledge. A while ago I was talking to a guy who has been a massive inspiration to me. and also more recently with some personal advice on my own writing. and others who are apparently jealous of any success you might be having. keeping it hidden. however this was very difficult to share with others. I found this bewildering. got fourteen thousand words now – job’s a good ’un. As a result I no longer talk to these people about anything new. as if it were some sort of dirty secret. but perhaps this is when you find out who your real friends are. right? The conversation that followed was both positive and encouraging. secretly bashing away at the keyboard in stolen moments. I knew one guy who was apparently happy for me. but others will be negative and sceptical. and wanted to know all about it. were in fact really happy for me. I went away and wrote (and wrote and wrote). Others would have a joke with me. as I was afraid of their reactions. So. so much else 144 . He had been gracious enough to read an article I had written.18. as if it were some sort of comment on their own failings. but he seemed to take it that way. Ashamed almost. but then couldn’t wait until I had finished telling my news before he talked all over it with stories of his own plans and achievements. It is a shame that it sometimes comes with the odd disappointment. indirectly through his work over many years. and I went back to him and said I’ve expanded it. as I was no threat to his own success. There I was. with an edge that was beyond ‘normal banter’. I got all sorts of different reactions. much better to get honest advice.

Talk about being knocked for six… I did genuinely appreciate the honest advice (no point in any other sort). this guy thought that I had a future as a writer – heady stuff coming from an established author! So I decided not to worry about it. it just hasn’t got any more in it. but imagine if someone actually asked me to produce something? Ok. oh my god. Perhaps you could let us see the first draft in a month’s time? Can you imagine? Oh my god. What the hell am I going to do? It’s all good and well standing up and claiming to be a credible writer. Not possible. more books…? Hang on a minute. if you’re as good as you say you are. I had told myself that if a prospective publisher were to tell me that my work was good. we’d like you to do some work for us. but needed to grow to twenty thousand words. it’s too big for me . then I would say sorry. in fact it seemed I needed at least three times as much as I had currently done. but I feel like I’ve already bitten off more than I can possibly chew. At one point I’m sure he mentioned fifty to sixty thousand! 145 . Don’t think I can keep up with this. and spent the rest of the evening quite excited about the possibilities that had appeared before me. I don’t even know what it’s going to be yet. I haven’t finished my first book yet. But the following day comes and I’m very low. but even so I just couldn’t get my head around this. but no this thing has already grown to it’s natural size. the advice I was given wasn’t that I needed a few more pages. A day or two earlier. Thankfully (in the end). A future in writing? That would mean more work. and I’m in blind panic about my next project. what on earth was I thinking?? Arrgghhh!! At this point I had written a total of about fourteen thousand words. more ideas. moaning to myself that I just couldn’t do it. can’t be done.was positive. At least forty thousand words.I can’t even deliver against yesterday’s rush of enthusiasm. If you could just knock off a quick ten thousand words. we’re looking for a short story that is both motivational and inspirational. how am I going to write something else? It’s all good and well tinkering around at my own pace. a massive amount of work. oh my god. split over twelve short chapters. Mr. Mentally. I spent the next day on the floor. if not more. oh my god…I’m panicking. come to think of it I’m really not sure I should have started all of this. Johnson.

just breathe… It wasn’t just the volume that bothered me. some of it just the beginnings of ideas. So let’s have a look. I was not convinced that it was viable to treble the page count whilst maintaining the quality. Half an hour later and the whole thing has a different structure. but also because someone else had said there was a future to this. not in my heart of hearts. Thanks to some rather timely advice. how the book is structured. partly because I couldn’t conceive of my work growing to this size. I have now split the book into five different parts. I still have the same fourteen thousand. but crucially this was no longer an article. There was so much to do. and I let my imagination run free. it has become the outline of a bigger. to have around twenty chapters – the existing ones all need expanding.it has become viable in my mind. long way off. it was also the quality.time to shift my thinking here. But finally the resilience kicks in . to see this as the outline of a ‘proper’ book for the first time. But now instead of being a ‘nearly completed something’. and with this I was filled from the top of my head to my toes with energy. They weren’t asking for proof either. then why was it that I needed proof of my ability to produce future work? Simple – because I couldn’t believe in myself as a writer. enthusiasm and inspiration. and the others are not yet written. That being the case. I felt like throwing the towel in. that I could and would produce more good quality work. 146 . let’s have a think about what I’ve got here. not really. such a mountain to climb if I was ever to complete my first book. I can actually see the book . a mini-project that was running out of steam suddenly became transformed into a genuinely viable book. and it became very clear that any future publishing deal was a long. this was an opinion based on what they had already seen.Breathe. let myself dare to believe. This isn’t about suddenly writing a lot more words. And I was doing what? Panicking because I didn’t have any ideas for my second book? Stupid… The fear was unreal. Out comes pen and paper. I felt like packing it all in. bolder project – some of it part-written. I realise that I’m still approaching this as a very long article… time to move things on. But guess what? I can see the book. and was almost defeated by the beginnings of some small success. and harness the positive in all of this.

‘cos I'm just having a little dabble. this wasn’t about seeing myself as a successful. I still saw myself as a beginner . if I am sitting down and bashing at the keyboard a few times a week.none of us like rejection. and also kept telling other people the same thing. how many words or even what the quality was as I said. Then at last the penny finally dropped (it can take me a while) . and therefore couldn't really fail. then dabbling was all that I would ever do. and would prove to be another self-fulfilling prophecy.It was at this point that I came up against a very important question. If you don’t truly believe in yourself.I'm just having a little play with this. so to make it do-able I broke it down into much smaller pieces. and to be a writer. I just couldn't get my head around it. Even the fact I felt uncomfortable about that couldn’t 147 . Slowly I began to see that as long as I kept telling myself that I was just dabbling. and had the beginnings of a book set out in a workable framework. Never mind being a full-time writer. that way I couldn’t be disappointed if it didn’t work out. maybe something will come of it. No great problem if it doesn't work out.e. Can I or can’t I? Am I or am I not? This was a big choice. but always saying to myself (and others) . why should anyone else? Although I was now enthusiastically writing on a regular basis.in my head this was extremely pretentious. raking in millions or anything too farfetched . I had by definition already been a writer for several months. Although I really wanted to write. I think this was more pronounced because I couldn’t see myself as a writer at all . then I was going to have to take a deep breath and start thinking of myself as one. maybe it won't. giving it a go. I kept telling myself this. that I couldn’t see myself as a writer at all.hang on a minute. You know the way these negative thoughts work . That way I wasn't setting expectations (theirs or mine).you know. that it was all pretentious bollocks etc. It didn’t matter at this point what I was producing. reach too far and you run the risk of crashing down in abject failure. i. It was a huge leap from where my head was at the time. The time had come – if I was ever to become a ‘proper’ writer.I decided to stick with the fundamentals. it was about being able to get my head around being a writer at all. then I already AM a writer by definition. published writer. So at the point of realisation.

therefore I was a writer. which hurdles are ‘impossible’ to overcome . and it will probably lie in examining some of the things that you have either set or accepted as ‘sensible’ 148 . success now seems like a reasonable outcome. The moment I stood up and said I AM A WRITER. i. I still am writing on a regular basis. it can be difficult to shift your thinking. much like the ones that almost made me throw the towel in a while back. even more so if they are boundaries that you grew up with. So you can think this through. WOW. and are therefore not real unless you acknowledge them as being real. but because you are frightened of succeeding. and it still amazes me to think that I AM a writer. and enjoy the rush that comes with it. What a fantastic feeling – but at least now I can accept this. Bottling out because of the fear of failure is bad enough. I was going to have to believe in myself. And now I do. a teacher. if I ever expected anyone else to. These self-imposed parameters actually govern what you can conceive as being within your power. You will find an answer. find out what it is that you think is holding you back. a rock climber or whatever it is that you want to be. But without that self-belief and commitment. only this time with a different mindset. I don’t claim to be infallible on this score – I think the ups and downs are a part of human nature. the only thing my previous mindset had given me was a ready made excuse in case it all went wrong . there is no way that your dream will ever come to fruition. because if you can’t see yourself as being a writer. Most of the limitations that hold us back are self-created. and then define what seems to be possible/impossible. I never said I was that bothered if nothing came of this.and then think it through again.I was writing on a regular basis. Don’t try to bypass this first stage of acceptance. and sometimes even a quite likely one. daring them to try and flatten me. But aside from saving a bit of face.change it .. they are only thoughts.? So. scary or otherwise.e. This whole process is quite incredible. And even if you have. it felt like I was challenging the whole world. they can be changed with a little effort. As it was. I realised that I had to change my thinking. then you won’t ever become one. exactly what good would that do me? I would still have failed miserably. to bring me back down to earth. so for the time being I will continue to carry a spare pair of pants with me.hey. Where these boundaries have been in place for many years. But even so. what you have accepted as your limitations will determine your reality. But it has become do-able.

and accept it as being part of the ‘new you’. and the way through this is to challenge the negative side of your self image. become comfortable with the idea of being a success. but also life-changing. but remember you are only ever comparing yourself against yourself. Sometimes this feels as if it should be forbidden. If we are to continue to grow. as we have grown way beyond this. the key is then to recognise and embrace this change. Too much too quickly.limits. as if it is being ‘big-headed’. The scale of the potential within this is so awesome. Once you change these boundaries. that it has to be felt rather than described. At this stage there is no need to worry about success feeding the ego excessively. It is almost spiritual in nature. As your perspective expands. and nothing will ever seem impossible again. and then your whole perspective changes with it. Allow yourself to believe that you can succeed. habits and behaviours. Instead think of this as a process of refining that which already exists. and then make sure you settle for nothing less. Although this may sound deceptively simple. The only person that can now cause you to fail is you. So give yourself permission to succeed. it is mind-blowing to experience. and the ‘old you’ will usually reject this ‘new you’. Then at each stage of development you will be able to recognise and accept the new model as simply being a new and improved version of yourself. in fact that you deserve to succeed in your goals. the result being a demoralising reversion to type – a rapid retreat back to former thinking. that you are worthy of success. which is never wrong. This is not a brand new you. your thinking expands. then it is important that we do accept and embrace our achievements at each milestone along the way. but please don’t just take my word for it – get out there and try this for yourself. 149 . It is absolutely amazing. not some unrecognisable alter-ego that you have just invented and given radically different values and beliefs. It’s straightforward enough. and it is true to say that nothing will ever feel the same again.

150 . the narrator described how we each have unique ‘filters’ within our minds. and our attention will only be drawn to things that are substantially different from what we already know. the wind moving the trees at the end of the road. and notice nothing of our surroundings. seeing the wealth of visual details from everything around you . For example. Imagine really looking. the contrasting styles and individual content of each garden. with other senses usually playing a lesser role. and how certain drugs were given to some of the American soldiers. Most of the information coming into your brain will relate to what you can see and hear. take a walk down the street in which you live. If we were to take all of this in. but in rhythm with it’s neighbours. and how each leaf moves differently from the others. hence turning the soldiers into more effective killing machines. it really would be overwhelming. the brain will usually ignore most of the information. We do this by making a comparison between the incoming information and our stored knowledge and accepted version of reality. Choose Life Some years ago I saw a documentary about the war in Vietnam.19. So instead. the different cars parked on the road.the individual bricks that make up each house in the street. And so on. At other times we are so preoccupied with our thoughts that we walk or drive as if in a daze. it was said that the effects of the drug given to the American soldiers was not to change these filters. we would be unable to cope with the massive volume of information that we are constantly picking up from our environment. The sheer quantity of available data is staggering. The intention was that they should lose their natural reluctance to take life. but to remove them completely. To explain the effects of one drug in particular. which in turn enables us to make decisions. It was said that without these filters. and make some sort of coherent sense of what remains. These filters help us to sort through and dismiss much of the information that is coming in through our senses. In the TV documentary. through which we define that which we understand and accept as reality.

your parents and friends.Can you imagine losing your accepted understanding of reality? Can you imagine taking in absolutely everything. we know that a milestone has been reached. we realise that old habits die hard. Ultimate success is to have clear sight of these most valuable of treasures. and feel that life can never be the same again. a couple that have been married for many years. Take. or see what wondrous lives we have. all around you. but to be able to feel this. and see what incredible jewels lie just beneath the surface. To me. Our inability to see what is right in front of our nose is a major problem. Nowhere to be seen. But what comes next? 151 . and the shapes of the clouds in the sky. which have been in front of our noses throughout the entire journey . We have reached enlightenment through the mundane. however they can also work against us. By the time the police arrived. the grass blowing in the wind. or your pets at home. but still. as enlightenment is about seeing what we really have in this world. The things that are so close that we no longer look. and impacts on lives and relationships on a global scale. and value it on a daily basis. all at once?? These filters generally work in our favour. and imagine a situation that you might hear on the evening news – suppose they were in their local supermarket and the woman disappeared without trace. and understanding the immeasurable value within. such as your partner or children. and no hints or clues to go on. Happiness is to be found in those things that are already there. no obvious reason. Not only as an occasional fleeting glimpse within the hectic rush of modern living. Granted. Now we have reached the point on our journey where this realisation has hit us between the eyes. This is an important point. that this has been a major turning point in our lives. We need to dust off the familiar and the apparently mundane. what are the chances of her husband being able to describe what clothes she had on? If she was wearing her glasses or not? If her hair was up or down? Our tendency to take familiar things for granted is a dangerous factor in any relationship. for example. The trees in the park. this is the real meaning of enlightenment. and know that we will need to work to maintain this new perspective.hidden away in plain view the whole time. To have reached this point is amazing.

and see things for what they really were. I would walk down the street and see the trees.When I was signed off with stress. I would sometimes sense people looking at me as if I had said something peculiar. A feeling of understanding and real compassion. but odd. this was the longest period of time I had taken off work since leaving school all those years ago. particularly at work. and understand their feelings. So I went back to work. however I am grateful that these filters didn’t come off in one go. and with a wider perspective. when in fact I was starting to take a rather different view of things. but as usual. perhaps thinking I was making some sort of odd joke that they didn’t really get. like I had somehow slipped into an alternative reality. I felt compassion for those around me when they were in the wrong.I was fortunate to have this clarity of vision. I’m sure this process will happen over and over. It didn’t do the guys in Vietnam much good. and sense the wonder of life in everything and everyone. as it didn’t seem to line up with certain aspects of my life. It was really trippy – not unpleasant. I could empathise with people who were upset or angry about a given situation. when it had all made perfect sense to me. another possible future – one that didn’t include the nine to five office routine that I had always assumed would be mine until old and grey. but still content in the knowledge that nothing will ever be quite the same again. but having returned to Earth. as I am quite sure my sanity would have disappeared with them. I find that I am still seeing things a little differently – not spaced out or trippy. And it was difficult to go back. I felt somehow out of place. I would see beauty in the reflections of car headlights on the wet road. I am looking through a different set of filters now. with my vision clearing more each time. hear the birds. and how they were being held back by their emotional responses and reactive approach to life. only to find that my new perspective felt quite strange. ones that let me see more clearly. For the first time I had caught a glimpse of another life. They must have thought I was out there on another planet! After a while I began to wonder about this new perspective that I had taken to be some degree of enlightenment. if I remember rightly… 152 . It became apparent that the situation might not be sustainable. After all. I’m not out there on another planet any more. However. this was a worry about nothing. instead of getting annoyed with them. they weren’t in the same place as me. I then found myself gently coming back down to something resembling normal life. However I could also see a much wider perspective. I did worry that I might lose the insights that had been earned through my experience and pain. as wide as the Universe itself.

like you’ve lost sight of what it’s all about. It’s all too easy to slip and fall back into old habits. But you can change this. to the spiritual. At this point it is important to reflectand remember just how far you have come. You instead find yourself re-tuning back into the proper flow of things. but like the proverbial ripple in the pond. you can easily feel like a dead man walking. but it means something wholly different when you have been there yourself. And serving others in this way is ultimately what this journey is about. You will start (without trying) to share this perspective. or the grain lines in a wooden table. and then back again to the mundane. This journey has been described by many wise men over the ages. patterns in your wallpaper.So that’s the whole journey – from the mundane. you haven’t been through all of this for nothing. When you return to your familiar day-to-day life. there is a direct impact on those around you. So make sure you keep your awareness up and spot the warnings signs – they should be as familiar as an old friend by now! And when you do see or feel your own warning signs. you disengage from the thoughts which were creating stress. What might not be so immediately obvious.you may think this only affects yourself. especially those close to you. This has an unmistakeable effect on others. that it seems difficult to understand how you couldn’t see it before. things look somehow different. and living in tune with your increasingly positive values and perspective. is the knock-on effect . then take action. you are able to lead by example. have you? But what should you do when the pace of modern living threatens to disrupt your new-found state of mind? Just open your eyes – literally. Focus your eyes and attention on whatever is around you. if you don’t enjoy something of each day. After all. or from the discomfort of trying to go faster than the speed of life. The thing to remember now is how important it is not to take your eye off the ball. You can use this most powerful of senses to bring yourself fully into the present. In fact it’s about quality of life . with so much of exceptional value in your life. When stress is running your life. Although it is certainly true that not everyone is ready to listen. By bringing yourself firmly into the present in this way. In your most natural of states. especially when they have been a way of life for some time. you can do something 153 . and take a subtle approach by simply being yourself. and do so promptly and firmly. and search out the detail – whether it is in the leaves on a tree. this natural balance and vision. And after a while this becomes a pleasure in itself.years clocked up mean nothing if you have no depth of joy.

We are all responsible for our own experience of life. and one which is often overlooked. Simplicity is a theme that has run throughout these pages. to consciously steer clear of the negatives in this world. Remember .the fact is that we often can’t change the world around us. And to realise that these thoughts can be discarded if you wish. It seems that most of the unnecessary complications are created by ourselves. or they come from the blinkered expectations of others. And when you pick this up. Finding that which is already inside. but we can change how we interact with it. we can therefore get to the root of the problem. when you accept this responsibility. workmates or whoever. away from the expectations of friends. WOW. but you will also have a profound effect on those around you. is very liberating. by how we react to things that happen in the world around us. or how we will get there. To realise you can finally walk your own path. and that it doesn’t at all mean leaving people behind. To choose your own path now. and need only apply if you want them to. where we need to go. A little scary perhaps. family. This brings with it an implicit commitment to follow a positive route from this point. This is the point at which we stop worrying about the detail of where we are. and because we have the power to change ourselves. If we leap past this in our haste to make good. although it is no more than a simple choice. This is the point that we make the decision to choose life – a better life in every way from this day forward. then not only will your own life change. as we need a firm mental resolve to be the solid foundation on which we build the rest of our lives. To realise that your perceived fears and restrictions are either of your own making. but also very exciting. This life is of your own making. 154 . and go where you choose. The starting point however is one that we haven’t yet identified. then the positive actions we try to employ will often flounder. and instead is about stripping away the unnecessary.different. A choice to be made just before the point of accepting responsibility. so a better life therefore has little to do with building anything new. Know that our stress is ultimately caused within. and our own quality of existence. or at least it can be.

if you are fighting yourself day after day. Choose Life 155 .If you aren’t happy with your life. then again. So go on. or struggling to break away from ingrained habits or behaviours. and a more fulfilling future. If you recognise parts of yourself within these pages. this choice is the starting point for a better life. open up all of the possibilities and the incredible potential that lies dormant within each and every one of us. make the commitment in your decision right now. then this choice is your starting point.

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